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Soccer gives Sandy big boost

Published August 13, 2009 12:01 am

Tourists flock to Utah to watch U.S. play English club, adding more than $3.1 million to economy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tourists from all over the country flocked to the city of Sandy to attend the 2009 MLS All-Star Game on July 29 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

By most accounts, they didn't hold back on the spending.

Officials and employees at Sandy-area hotels, stores and restaurants noted a significant increase in the number of customers and sales in the days before the All-Star Game and the day after. Tourists from places such as Chicago, Atlanta, New York and England arrived early and often, filling up the hotels and the cash registers at local businesses in the midst of a recession that continues to grip the nation.

Sandy Economic Development Director Randy Sant said an economic multiplier calculated that an estimated 5,200 tourists attended the All-Star Game, contributing about $3,126,250 to Sandy's economy.

These numbers surpass the prediction of 4,000 to 5,000 tourists and $2- to 3-million boost to the economy that Utah Sports Commission President and CEO Jeff Robbins announced in July 2008.

Sant also said that the total economic boost was probably close to $9.5 million when considering the money spent by the other nearly 15,000 patrons at the game (the sold-out crowd numbered 20,120).

This doesn't take into consideration the revenue generated by media attention.

"We're happy to know that, for one game, these types of dollars came into the Sandy area," Sant said.

Given that state and local politicians frequently tout premier events at Rio Tinto as a means of driving Utah's tourism economy, the stadium appears to be serving its purpose.

"Anytime 20,000 people go across the street [to Rio Tinto], it's positive for us," said John Davie, director of operations for Spaghetti Mama's and the Mayan Adventure restaurants. "We got some of [their business], so that's a good thing."

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Hotels booked up » Brian Lee, of Atlanta, was one tourist who set up shot in Sandy for a few days.

Lee flew into Salt Lake City on July 27. He shopped, ate out and traveled with friends up to Antelope Island State Park. He and his friends were also in attendance at the game, most of them wearing Everton FC jerseys.

Lee found the variety of hotels, stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses to be suitable for his pocketbook.

"The prices were very reasonable," Lee said before the game. "It's a time when you're watching your pennies, so it's been a very reasonable trip."

Sandy provided 1,113 hotel rooms for Lee and other tourists to choose from, with more available in Salt Lake City and other surrounding areas. A survey of local hotels showed that between 80 and 100 percent of Sandy's hotel rooms were occupied on the day before and of the All-Star Game, Sant said.

Officials and employees at Sandy's Comfort Inn (97 rooms) and Hyatt Summerfield Suites (137 rooms) said that they were booked up on game day. Hilton Garden Inn general manager Jeff Martella said his hotel had booked up to 92 percent of its 150 rooms by game day.

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Stadium drives economy » The All-Star Game was the second big event in as many weeks to take place at Rio Tinto. A July 23 country music concert featuring Kenny Chesney also generated higher-than-usual revenue for hotels and other businesses.

However, it seems most travelers spent more time in the area for the All-Star Game than for the Chesney concert. Finelli said that Comfort Inn was full from July 23 until the All-Star Game, and McGruder said that the Summerfield Suites was booked from Tuesday through Friday.

The All-Star Game also seems to have had a greater benefit for restaurants than the Chesney concert managed.

"The Kenny Chesney impact was [mostly] the day of the concert, whereas the All-Star Game had more of a two-day impact," said Davie.

Martella noted that several lodgers used the Hilton's shuttle service to travel to some of the stores in the vicinity of Rio Tinto. The effect that tourists had on sales at these stories business appears to be mixed.

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Other businesses » By anecdotal accounts, the South Towne Mall seemed to get mixed action from the game.

An employee at Barnes & Noble said that it received a boost in sales and traffic in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, while an employee at Old Navy did not notice an increase in the amount of customers.

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By the numbers The 2009 MLS All-Star Game

20,120 » Number of tickets sold to the game

5,200 » Estimated number of tourists in town for the game

$3,126,250 » Contributed to Sandy economy.