SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In case you didn’t know, the world of professional sports involves a lot of money.
A lot, a lot of money.
Not only do elite athletes command a great deal of income – for example, Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are slated to bring home nearly $63 million in combined salaries this season alone – the dough that makes an NBA game so glamourous can trickle out to the area around the arena and beyond.
The bigger the stage, the bigger the economic impact on the city and area the team or event is in.
For Milwaukee, the Bucks’ run to the championship made big bucks, with the city’s tourism department reporting a windfall of $57.6 million to the local economy, thanks to the NBA Finals.
In Utah, Jazz home games are a boon to the economy as well. According to the Utah Sports Commission’s President and CEO, Jeff Robbins, a study done a few years ago estimated that each NBA game in Salt Lake City generated around $1 million.
“If you look at vendors, restaurants, hotels you look at kind of the convergence of the city on to Vivint Arena in that local area there’s obviously significant economic activity,” Robbins explains to ABC4.com.
While putting revenue in the hands of business owners around the arena seems like a no-brainer sort of consequence from a sporting event, other impacts on a city or state aren’t as tangible such as a $120 Jordan Clarkson jersey from the team store or a pregame bite to eat at the neighboring Crown Burger.
Getting the state of Utah on screens of all types – television, computer, or mobile device – can be incredibly valuable as well.
To that end, Robbins and the Sports Commission feel they have a major opportunity coming next May to put Southern Utah on the radar on an enormous scale by hosting the 2022 Ironman World Championship in St. George.
Securing the event, which will be held for the first time outside of Kona, Hawaii, in the race’s entire 40-year history, was a major victory for the Beehive State.
“In 2019, it had an economic impact of about $40 million and about 5 billion impressions, which is about $40-some-odd million in media value that would have to pay for if you wanted to promote Kona,” Robbins illustrates.
Due to the Ironman World Championship’s cancellation in 2020 and 2021, it is expected by the Sports Commission that the pent-up demand for its return in St. George will make the media value even higher, making the 2022 event an even larger billboard for Utah.
The landscape of Utah’s sporting scene has already seen a great deal of evolution since hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 2002, Robbins explains. Bringing headlining moments such as Street League Skateboarding last month, in addition to an NHL exhibition game on Thursday and the Red Bull Rampage in October, is indicative of one thing: Utah is living up to the Commission’s moniker as the State of Sport.
The growth may continue well into the future with work currently being done to secure an additional Olympic bid sometime in the next decade.
Having readily available options for sports fans to spend their money and enjoy themselves on the night of the big game may also become even better much sooner than a potential Olympics in the 2030s. Whereas Milwaukee’s economic injection could be credited to a degree to the Deer District, a shopping and dining area immediately surrounding Fiserv Forum, where the Bucks play, the Jazz haven’t had the benefit of such a fan experience immediately around their homecourt.
However, Robbins sees signs of improvement and is realizing that potential already taking place in downtown Salt Lake City.
“I think you’re seeing certainly active economic activity taking place down there,” he says, citing the construction of several new hotels and buildings on the southeast corner of the arena, as well as the 2017 renovation of the building itself. “As far as outdoor shopping and the things that are taking place across the street, as the economy gets better and as things improve hopefully that will continue to evolve.”
Above all, sports, and the Jazz, in particular, have made Utah a global name as an invaluable branding and promotional vessel. One of Robbins’ favorite stories is that of Zions Bank CEO and President Scott Anderson, who was recently on an excursion to a remote part of Africa when a native excitedly recognized the basketball note logo on his son’s Jazz hat.
It helps that the team is led by a slew of globally recognizable stars, such as Mitchell; Gobert, who hails from France; Ingles, an Australian; Clarkson, a Filipino-American; and other international talents.
“When you start looking at the reach that the Jazz have nationally and globally, I think that’s where it really does help that we’ve become an international team,” Robbins states. “As you look at the expansion of the NBA into the international world, it’s significant. They’re in Asia, they’re in Europe, players are coming from all over and that hasn’t been too long ago when that was not necessarily the case.”