Many spring training baseball fans made a mini vacation out of watching their favorite teams play around the Valley earlier this year.
The typical Cactus League visitor attended three games, stayed four nights in Arizona and spent a median, or midpoint, $405 per day, according to new information provided by Arizona State University researchers.
Six in 10 fans came from out of state, and one in four visited other parts of the state while they were here.
Collectively, baseball fans pumped an estimated $373 million into Arizona’s economy from late February through the end of March, according to the more conservative of two Cactus League impact studies, both released by Arizona State University researchers on Monday.
This year’s 233 spring-training games, involving 15 Major League Baseball teams at 10 metro-Phoenix stadiums, attracted 1.79 million fans, an average of roughly 7,700 spectators per game.
The economic-impact estimate from ASU’s L. William Seidman Research Institute was extrapolated from self-reported spending surveys completed by 3,900 fans — local residents as well as out-of-area tourists — at all 10 ballparks.
Food/drinks lead way
Food and drinks purchased at bars and restaurants represented the largest spending total by out-of-state visitors, at $123 million, followed by hotel rooms and other lodging accommodations at $90 million.
Other significant components included souvenirs/gifts ($35 million), groceries ($22 million) and car rentals ($12 million). The study didn’t include the amount of estimated spending by the legions of sports media covering the games. It’s not clear whether air travel was included.
The study estimated that spring training created the equivalent of 6,400jobs on an annual basis, though most Cactus League workers were employed no more than a few weeks.
Broader estimate at $644 million
The broader ASU study estimated the spring-training’s economic impact at $644 million but included some double-counting of the numbers, said Dennis Hoffman, director of the Seidman Research Institute.
For example, while the conservative study included only final restaurant sales, the broader study might also include the sale of supplies from a wholesaler to a restaurant.
In other words, the $644-million figure reflects “total output” from all Cactus League transactions, while the impact in final goods and services was $373 million.
The broader format is similar to how various other sporting events estimate their economic impact, and it provides some comparability to a 2015 Cactus League report that estimated spring baseball pumped $544 millioninto Arizona’s economy that year.
The 2018 figure of $644 million represented an 11 percent increase, after adjusting for inflation, compared to 2015. The Cactus League didn’t estimate its economic impact in 2016 or 2017.
Cactus League’s annual impact
Unlike some sporting events held here on an intermittent basis, such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four of the men’s college basketball tournament, the Cactus League generates revenue each year, tourism officials noted.
This month, the Valley received word that it will host the Super Bowl in 2023 and the Final Four in 2024, which will expand the economic benefits in those years.
Helped by sporting events, the state’s tourism industry generated $22.7 billion in spending last year, according to recent estimates by the Arizona Office of Tourism.