Utes, Cougs, Jazz give Utah big economic bump
When the University of Utah plays football or there is a Jazz game, The Pie Pizzeria owner Mike Palmer notices a bump in his business.
"It’s very important," he said of the crowds produced before and after Ute football and basketball games at the basement eatery adjacent to the U. campus. "We always do better when we win. Delivery, takeout and dine-in are all impacted for sure. We see some impact from the Jazz, but we are further from them."
That spike in business probably would not surprise the U.’s David Eccles School of Business, which released a Dan Jones & Associates poll Thursday showing that local sporting events benefit Utah’s economy and quality of life.
The survey showed that 72 percent of Utah adults plan to attend a game in the next six months.
For those respondents, college football — most prominently Utah, Brigham Young University and Utah State — appeared to be the hottest ticket with 47 percent planning to go to a game.
While the Utah Jazz came in second at 29 percent, the poll showed that those attending the NBA team’s games are willing to spend more than for other sports. Seventy percent of those polled plan to spend more than $50 at a Jazz game, which includes not only ticket prices, but also food, transportation and souvenirs.
Hospitality business owners such as Doug Hofeling, chief operating officer of the Salt Lake Brewing Co., which operates Squatters, said that while his operation gets a boost when the Jazz play, the increase isn’t as great as it once was.
"Once upon a time, when there was far less competition in the downtown area, we got quite a bump from Jazz and Ute games," he said. "But with the addition of Gateway and more downtown restaurants, we get an increase in business, but it’s much smaller than it used to be."
Still, the overall impact is significant, according to Natalie Gochnour, associate dean at the Eccles School of Business and senior adviser to the Salt Lake Chamber.
"Having a variety of spectator sports and their success contribute to why we want to live here," she said. "They are a great way to wind down a stressful day. It is more of a quality-of-life issue, but it is still important to our economy."
Gochnour said the big economic lift comes when Utah teams are televised out of state and area attractions are featured. She said Utah joining the Pac-12 has helped bring in more fans to the Salt Lake City area during football season who use restaurants and hotels.
Hofeling said he especially sees a bump when an event such as World Cup soccer or the NBA Finals takes place and sports fans gather in one place to watch television and cheer.
According to the Jones poll for the monthly Utah Business Sentiment Survey, 16 percent of respondents said they plan to attend a game outside of the state in the next six months, with the NFL or Major League Baseball being the most likely hosts.
"The survey indicates that though Utahns are happy with the sporting events they are able to attend, they may be willing to support more sports in the state," said Dan Jones, whose firm conducted the poll. "Not only do the majority of Utahns attend events in the state, but the fact that a large number are willing to spend money traveling out of state to attend events not available in Utah shows Utahns’ appetite for professional sports leagues."
The survey showed college basketball was the third choice (26 percent) followed by minor-league baseball (22 percent) and Real Salt Lake soccer (19 percent).
"When these sporting events attract out-of-state money from visitors, TV contracts or other sources," Gochnour said, "it grows the Utah economy."
The poll, which surveyed nearly 1,000 Utahns, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
The Utah Business Sentiment Survey is taken monthly to study business conditions, policy preferences and current issues facing the state. Analysts with Dan Jones & Associates and the David Eccles School of Business, both of which sponsor the survey, evaluate the responses and share insights. It is designed to help business and community leaders make better informed decisions.