VOL. 131 | NO. 4 | Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Sports Execs Tackle Teams’ Economic Impact
By Don Wade
Football fans in Charlotte, N.C., have had a fun season watching the NFL’s Carolina Panthers reel in 15 wins, a near perfect season, and secure the top playoff seed in their conference.
And it could turn out to be quite the edge for the Panthers in their quest to reach the Super Bowl.
But the economic impact season essentially rides on the first playoff game. If the Panthers win, they get another home game. And if that happens, area hotels win big.
“If we have two (playoff) games this year, oh my gosh, it is going to be great for business,” Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, told The Charlotte Observer.
In Memphis, of course, there are no NFL playoff games. But for five years running, there have been NBA playoff games. Even before then, in 2010, Younger Associates provided an economic impact study for the Greater Memphis Chamber on the effect the Grizzlies and FedExForum have on Memphis.
The conclusion was an annual economic impact of nearly $223.3 million and 1,534 jobs supported.
On Jan. 28 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, The Daily News Publishing Co. will offer another installment of its seminar series – Memphis Newsmakers: Effect of Local Sports on the Memphis Economy. Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace will deliver the keynote address. Joining him for a panel discussion will be: Tom Bowen, athletic director at the University of Memphis; Craig Unger, general manager of the Memphis Redbirds; and Fred Jones, founder of the Southern Heritage Classic.
The program begins at 3:30 p.m. with check-in opening at 3. A wine and cheese reception will follow the program. Seating is limited; visit bit.ly/MEMnewsmakers to register.
Jones recently told The Daily News that for the first Southern Heritage Classic Game more than 26 years ago, he had one corporate sponsor: Coca-Cola. For the game held last September, FedEx was the presenting sponsor and the sponsor list also included AutoZone, Allstate Insurance, Nike, Carrier Corp., the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and Coors Light.
Asked if he had to bankroll the first game with mostly his own money, Jones laughed and said, “Not mostly, not mostly.”
Much has changed in the last quarter-century. AutoZone Park opened in 2000 at Third Street and Union Avenue. Now, the Redbirds are owned by their parent St. Louis Cardinals and the ballpark underwent significant renovations before last season.
Wallace came to the Grizzlies in 2007, at a time when John Calipari had U of M basketball dominating the local sports landscape and people still wondered a little about the local NBA franchise.
“We had to re-win the fan base,” Wallace said of his early days on the job.
Now, the Grizzlies are working on a sixth straight postseason appearance.
Meanwhile, U of M football just finished its second straight winning season and hired a new coach in 34-year-old Mike Norvell, formerly offensive coordinator at Arizona State.
“He’s the right next step for this program,” U of M president M. David Rudd said.
So there should be a lot to talk about at the Jan. 28 seminar, which includes a question-and-answer session.
Just one request, though: Don’t ask anybody about officiating in a particular game. No one wants to get fined.