WVU Reigns As Economic Impact Titan For Region, State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During his first four and a half years as West Virginia’s athletic director, Shane Lyons found himself getting one question asked repeatedly and he couldn’t answer it.
“What’s the economic impact of WVU athletics to the state? What’s the impact it has on Monongalia County?” they would ask.
Lyons admits he didn’t have specific answers, that the best he could do was offer “guestimates.”
So, in the summer of 2016 they commissioned the company of Tripp Umbach, a group that has completed more than 200 economic impact studies over the past 25 years for major research universities across the country.
It is a distinguished group whose clients include the National Parks Service, PGA golf events, NFL teams, college athletics and convention centers along with individual events such a the Pittsburgh Regatta.
The results was much as you might guess … WVU athletics have a large economic impact upon the state and Monongalia County, as well as the surrounding area.
The results are now in and these were the major findings:
State Economic Impact
Economic impact … $302.7 million
Visitor and fan spending … $246.1 million
WVU Athletics Operations … $56.6 million
State Employment Impact
Total jobs … 2,109
Jobs from operations … 291
Jobs from visitors … 1,818
State and local tax impacts … $18.8 million
Monongalia County Eonomic Impact
Economic impact … $78.8 million
Visitor and fan spending … $63.3 million
WVU Athletics Operations … $15.5 million
Monongalia County Employment Impact
Total jobs .. 709
Jobs from operations … 119
Jobs from visitors … 590
As impressive as these numbers are, they do NOT include such things as postseason events hosted such as the Big 12 Regional baseball, the NCAA National Rifle Championships or the like, nor does the economic impact of television and streaming enter into the equation.
The survey was taken from 2017 football games against Texas Tech and Texas, 2018 men’s basketball games against Kansas and Kentucky, and two women’s basketball games against Texas and Kansas.
The study concluded that football had a $223.4 million impact of the $302.7 million, which tells you all you need to know about who is in the driver’s seat within the athletic department.
So, who goes to WVU football games and what do they spend?
The average ticket buyer is from Mon County, turns the game into a party going with family or friends, earns an annual household income of $80,00 to $120,000, works in labor/skilled labor, oil and gas education and healthcare, goes to most or all games and typically drives to games.
The average Mon County fan spends $51 a day. The average out of Mon County West Virginian pends an average of $86 a day and the average per day spent by out of state fans is $281.
The result is that they estimate WVU football generates a tax revenue of $9.8 million for the state.
The men’s basketball fan from Monongalia County averages spending $22 while the average West Virginia fan who does not reside in Mon Country spends $63 and the average out of state visitor spends $137, or close to $150 less than a football fan.
All of this does not include the price of tickets or money spent inside the event such as concessions or souvenirs.
Lyons wants to make sure that this continues and that it grows with the times.
“We need to continue bringing people in,” he said. “The fan experience is very important. We need to fill up the Coliseum as well as the football stadium. That’s the economic impact.
“If they are staying at home and watching their 80-inch TV, they are not spending money here, so how can we continue not only as an athletic department but as a community? Our ultimate goal is to have that football stadium full, each and every Saturday, and the same for the Coliseum.”
That means keep improving facilities, improving parking and traffic. It means winning, for after all in the end that is what is going to bring the fan to the arena.
Lyons understands, though, this is bigger than just the school.
“This is not just athletics,” he stressed. “This is the community of Morgantown and Monongalia County when we put on athletic events. We’re all in this together.”
So he has been working with the community, with the Visitors and Convention Bureau, trying to make the trip to Morgantown pleasant and affordable.
“There’s some things we need to work on,” he admitted. “There’s a lot of up charge around the community on football weekends. It’s supply and demand, so we have to work together so everyone knows what this actually means.”
Hotels in the area double and triple their room rates and demand a two-night stay.
“We have to look at the room rates, the minimum nights, the traffic, working with the city and state, security. We’re all in this together,” Lyons said. “This is not just athletics. This is the community of Morgantown and Mon County so let’s all work together to make this an event.
“I think we’ve gotten better over the four and a half years I’ve been athletic director, but there’s always room for improvement.”