WVU Athletics economic impact valued at over $300 million

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WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons now has more proof that the department he oversees has a “significant” economic impact on the state of West Virginia.

According to a new economic impact study, WVU Athletics made a $302.7 million impact on the state of West Virginia during the 2017-18 academic year, with slightly more than $246 million stemming from fan and visitor spending. 

In addition, the study estimated a $78.8 million impact on Monongalia County, and an $18.6 million state and local tax injection. 

“When you’re bringing in 60,000 people for six football games and you’re bringing in 10, 12, 13,000 in for basketball games, and then the other sports, what does that really mean in totality? I think now, we have a little bit harder numbers to say what we mean to this state and why it’s important,” said Lyons. 

As expected, WVU football was the biggest financial driver in this study, accounting for more than two-thirds of the athletic department’s economic footprint. According to the report, the overall economic impact of WVU football — which combines direct and indirect spending by visitors and WVU football operations — exceeded $223 million. 

Visitor spending alone at West Virginia football games generated an estimated $193.9 million impact on the state, along with a $44.3 million impact on the county. 

The overall economic impact of WVU men’s basketball was also estimated at $35.5 million for 2017. 

Tripp Umbach conducted the economic impact analysis, surveying six home sporting events from the 2017 football season and 2017-18 basketball season while collecting 613 fan surveys. The director of this study said visiting fans — defined as anyone from outside Monongalia County who travels into the area for a game — produced the majority of the economic impact.

“When people come from outside of the county, it generates more of an impact than just people who are circulating their money in the community, because they would do that whether the university was here or not,” said Carrie Kennedy, principle project director for Tripp Umbach. “Those are the dollars that come into the economy in the county and really create the impact.” 

Lyons said WVU Athletics commissioned Tripp Umbach in order to answer questions he had asked for nearly five years. He thinks the result of the economic impact study proves that the Mountaineers mean a lot to the surrounding area. 

“I thought it was important as a department, as we move forward, that we have a better understanding of what we mean to this state and to the county,” said Lyons. 

With this new information in hand, Lyons believes WVU Athletics still must find new, better ways to engage fans, in order to keep fans coming to sporting events. As the study shows, without fan engagement, the economic impact of WVU Athletics will shrink. 

“That’s the ultimate goal,” said Lyons. “I want that stadium full each and every Saturday. Same thing with the Coliseum.” 

Lyons added that one of his biggest takeaways from the analysis is an understanding of the potential impact of seven home football games in a single season, as opposed to six home games and a neutral-site contest featuring another top-tier opponent. 

“It gives me a little bit more to quantify and say what does that actually mean from a scheduling standpoint in the future,” said Lyons. 

The economic impact analysis also found: 

  • The overall economic impact of sports other than football and basketball was $13.7 million for the state and $6.9 million for the county. 
  • WVU Athletics operations generated $56.6 million for the state and $15.5 million for Monongalia County in 2017-18. 
  • Sporting events created an estimated 2,109 jobs, including 1,818 jobs from visitors, which Kennedy defines as employment generated due to a game, such as gameday security, vendors, hospitality and more. 

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