SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to measuring the monetary benefits of hosting this weekend's NCAA West Regional games at EnergySolutions Arena, it might be best that no Utah teams are involved.
“It’s not an exact science, so we’ll always use a range,” Jeff Robbins, CEO and president of the Utah Sports Commission, said of the impact the six games will have on the local economy. “We feel the impact will be somewhere between $4 and $6 million.”
That estimate is higher than if there were Utah teams involved, but lower than if Salt Lake City was hosting later games in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds.
The reason it’s actually better that all eight teams are from out of state when it comes to the economic impact, Robbins said, is that if the participants were local, they would mostly attract the same ticket buyers as other activities or sporting events here in Utah might attract this weekend.
“When you’re bringing people in from outside the state, all of those dollars are new dollars,” he said. “If we’re talking about people from inside the state attending, that’s displaced dollars because we’re assuming they’d spend that money on something else, like a Real (Salt Lake) game or movies.”
Hosting the tournament’s earlier rounds means there are more tickets to sell to fans, but there's less of an impact on the economy at large. That’s because when a city hosts later rounds, participating schools take much larger chunks of those tickets for their fans and alumni. And having fans fly in, stay in hotels, eat in local restaurants and maybe sample other activities in the area means a wider economic boost.
Robbins said Utah was fortunate that several of the highest-seeded teams are from the West and have access to direct and affordable flights.
“Think about it. They just found out on Sunday. So they were making travel plans with just a few days' notice instead of the 10 to 14 days that airlines and hotels use for discounts,” he said.
The benefits of hosting any aspect of the very popular tournament don’t come simply from the infusion of cash this weekend.
It can also be measured in exposure for the city and state, which may bring visitors in the future.
“We think it will be fairly significant,” Robbins said of the benefits of hosting the nationally televised tournament. “When the games are shown on television and they talk about the state, when they show scenery coming in and out of the games, and talk about things in the state, that could be worth another $2 million. That’s a pretty significant pot for the community for something we’re not directly involved in.”