Capitalizing on Sports Tourism

By Todd Hall

Local sport commissions and sport authorities are commonly tasked with securing funds to build and manage sport facilities, obtain sport franchises and to use sports and sporting events to boost the economic development and meet the needs of businesses and residents.

Such is the case with the City of Jacksonville’s department of Sports and Entertainment, whose specific goal is to: “Attract, host and create opportunities that positively influence economic impact and improve the quality of life and cultural engagement for residents, visitors and businesses.”

Small businesses can benefit from sports tourism by planning for upcoming events, which can bring substantial amounts of visitors to the area as well valuable exposure for the region.

For example, Jacksonville has hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament three times since 2006, most recently in March. This year’s event alone had an economic impact of $10.6 million, according to an analysis by students participating in Jacksonville University’s Sport Business Program.

Because economic impact analyses are often conducted by organizations with specific agendas, the independent and conservative nature of the current study should add credibility to the outcome.

Three groups of visitors to Jacksonville were accounted for in the calculations: the competing teams, the media and the fans. Visitors were defined as individuals who traveled to Jacksonville for the event who spent a minimum of one night in the city. Thus, spending on the event from all local residents was not included—as this is simply displaced spending from alternative entertainment options.

Based on information provided by the City of Jacksonville Department of Sports & Entertainment, a few assumptions included:

  • 100 members of the media stayed an average of five nights in Jacksonville;
  • government per diem rates employed were $83;
  • the average number of rooms per competing team was 90; and
  • the average hotel room rate for the duration of the event was $156.

The tabulated results showed that initial (first round) spending by these three groups were:

  • $119,500 for media;
  • $915,300 for competing teams; and
  • $5.14 million by spectators, for a total of $6.17 million.

chart for econ impact of sports

However, this number does not account for the net change in regional output or the ripple effect that continues to impact the city.

Consequently, an economic multiplier needed to be applied to account for the additional income generated for businesses and local residents. The appropriate multiplier for this type of event in the City of Jacksonville is 1.73.

When applied to the initial spending total of $6.17 million, the total economic impact of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Jacksonville was calculated to be $10.6 million.

A thorough economic impact study also accounts for the costs of hosting the event. One unique aspect of hosting the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament is that there are virtually no costs involved for the host city because the NCAA reimburses each Local Organizing Committee for the expenses incurred.

Thus, while the financial costs of hosting this event were minimal, the overall economic gains for the City of Jacksonville were substantial.


Hall, ToddTodd Hall, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of sport business in the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University.  He can be reached at 904-256-7896 or

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