The Deep Green of Spartan Sports
At East Lansing’s Buffalo Wild Wings
restaurant, fans of Michigan State University football
get in line early. On home game days, you’ll find the green and white crowd sprawling out the door and down Albert Avenue by 9 a.m.
At nearby P.T. O'Malley's, a second work shift is added to handle the swell of sports devotees who wish to immerse themselves in the gridiron ritual of football Saturday. Add in fans of top regional MSU opponents like Notre Dame
, University of Michigan and The Ohio State University
, and there's not even enough room for shadows inside the sports bar at 210 Abbott St.
“If you take an average Saturday here at the bar, we get busy normally around 9:00 or 10:00 at night,” says Dave Neveax, a manager at P.T. O'Malley's. “On a game day, we'll have a pretty substantial crowd in here before, during and then after the game—pretty much all night long.”
Overall, sales at least double on football game days compared to an average Saturday, says Neveax, who has no problem finding 10 employees to fill the additional shifts.
“The more people who come in, the better the tips are going to be,” Neveax says. “Let's put it this way: Everyone wants to work on football Saturday.”
Such economic indicators suggest football means green in every corner of the state, not just East Lansing. In 2007, a study done by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group
, showed that football games at Michigan State and the University of Michigan infuse $177 million into the state's economy.
About half—or $88.7 million—goes directly into the till, while the remaining money creates a ripple effect in the local economy. The season-long economic surge was three times as large the $56 million generated by the 2006 Super Bowl
held in Detroit, according to the report.
The Michigan University Research Corridor
group commissioned the study, which examined the economic reverberations of the state's two Big Ten football schools.
“They are great events for the state to have and great events for East Lansing to host, because they bring in a lot of fans outside the local area and they bring a lot of money with them to spend and circulate into our economy,” says Scott Watkins, a senior consultant with Anderson Economic Group.
“It creates jobs, and a lot of businesses really benefit during that period,” he says.Beyond Football
While the 70,000 souls who attend every home MSU football game bring in the majority of the loot, other MSU sports kick in plenty, too.
For instance, the university hosted the NCAA
women's basketball tournament first- and second-round games in March 2007, which drew teams from around the nation.
The three-day attendance of 21,340 at East Lansing’s Breslin Center
topped all other eight first- and second-round sites, including University of Connecticut-stronghold Hartford, which boasted 20,714. The achievement likely factored in NCAA women's tournament returning to MSU in March 2009.
When the university hosts a Big Ten wrestling tournament, as it did in March 2007, or a conference soccer tournament as in November 2007, the effects on the local economy are considerable, Watkins says.
“When you have an event like that—where you have coaches and trainers as well as family and friends traveling from the individual schools, as well—those are going to bring in a lot of economic benefits for the area,” Watkins says. “So it's going way beyond football and basketball.”
When measuring economic impact, a key factor is how many people actually attend from outside the area since they're basically bringing in new money, according to experts like the Anderson Group and the National Association of Sports Commissions
“You get a significant number of people at those games who live here in the area and they don't necessarily produce an economic impact,” Watkins says. “It's the people who come in from metro Detroit and Grand Rapids—even more so out-of-state—who are bringing money that wouldn't otherwise be here in Lansing.”
And for attracting out-of-town visitors, no other sporting event attracts the hordes like a college football game. Michigan State averaged 70,477 spectators a game at seven home games last season.
And in MSU's case, about 12 percent of the 70,000 who filled Spartan Stadium on football Saturdays are from out-of-state, according to the study.
The Anderson Economic Group study offset spending generated from in-state residents attending events since they would conceivably spend the money elsewhere in the state instead of at an athletic event. Still, the study found visitors spend an average per game of $55 on food and drink; $30 on shopping; $45 on parking, gasoline or other auto-related expenses; and $46 on a ticket.
Added to the equation is an estimated 70 percent of visitors who stay overnight and fork over an average of $160 for accommodations.
On football game days, the City of East Lansing
saw $16,000 in parking revenue last year compared to $5,000 on other Saturdays, according to Dan O'Connor, the city’s parking administrator.
This year, the Howard Johnson
hotel in East Lansing saw all 55 of its rooms booked months ahead of Spartan home football contests against Notre Dame on Sept. 20; Ohio State on Oct. 18; and Wisconsin
on Nov. 1.
While Spartan alumni account for a large chunk of guests, the hotel also gets significant business from out-of-town fans of Ohio State and Notre Dame.
“Even for hockey games and other sporting events we see an increase in business,” says Jamie Price, Howard Johnson East Lansing front desk clerk.
So beyond the emotional thrill of a crisp October afternoon kick-off or late season conference rivalry win, MSU sports are also part of the Capital region economy. It brings in new money when out-of-town and out-of-state visitors share in the excitement of the season.
“It’s helping out the vendors and it's doing a lot for student employment at the grocery stores, restaurants and all the other places where people shop,” says Watkins.To receive Capital Gains free every week, click here.
Larry O'Connor is a Capital region freelance writer who believes it's a crime against humanity to be charged more than $2 for a hot dog at a football game.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Crowds fill the Breslin Center
Fans enjoy a game and drinks at Crunchy's in East Lansing
Spartan football action
Scott Watkins of the Anderson Economic Group
Fans at Breslin
Cruchy's and Scott Watkins Photographs © Dave Trumpie
MSU sports photos © David Olds