COLUMBIA — As Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau board members tore into their rolls at Monday’s lunchtime board meeting, bread and butter of a different kind was on the agenda: the $118 million generated by the MU Department of Athletics.
On Wednesday, a group of graduate students from MU’s Trulaske College of Business reported their findings on the economic impact of MU athletics. They studied the revenue from corporations, ticket sales, concessions, parking, team merchandise, hotels and restaurants from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.
Zack Odem, a team leader for MU’s Office of Sponsored Programs, was one of those students. Odem was not surprised by the group's findings.
“It’s a huge number,” Odem said. “Bottom line, if the athletics department wasn’t in Columbia, there wouldn’t be approximately $118 million in the economy.”
The study established the value of a ticketed university event, Odem said. These events include NCAA games, state high school athletic competitions, concerts and shows.
Odem said the group used established methodology for its study.
“We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel,” Odem said.
Kim Trabue, office administrator of Peckham & Wright Architects and a visitors bureau advisory board member, was impressed by the serious nature of the study.
“I feel it’s of the quality you would expect of a professional firm,” Trabue said.
Odem said the study was conservative. It excluded non-ticketed events, such as the Show-Me State Games, even though those events also bring people to town who eat in restaurants and sleep in hotels.
In the short term, the study provides the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the visitors bureau with information they can reference to answer economic questions. The long-term impact is harder for Odem to predict, but he thinks it may help shape Columbia’s economic planning.
Amy Schneider, interim director of the visitors bureau, agreed.
“Any kind of economic benchmark you can find is nothing but an opportunity to build your strategic plan,” Schneider said.
Schneider said it was nice to see what MU athletics bring to the community.
Jeremy Brown, co-owner of Sophia’s and Addison’s restaurants, said he appreciates the boost MU sports bring to his businesses.
“If you're talking about football Saturday weekends — if it’s a day game — we see up to a 50 percent increase in sales,” Brown said.
Although night games can cause a slight slump in diners, he sees the overall impact of athletic events in a positive way.
Jim Price, manager at C.C.’s City Broiler, also noted an increase in traffic after day games, but night games are problematic for the restaurant, which is only open for dinner.
“If it’s a night game, it kind of kills (the evening's business),” Price said.