By Natalie Gochnour
I’ve been asked several times this week about the economic impact of the big game on Saturday between the Utes and the Cougars. The crowds, the banter and the media coverage catch people’s attention. Many people’s thoughts turn to the economy.
The truth is that in-state games represent a smaller immediate economic impact than games with an out-of-state foe. Here’s why:
In-state games peg one part of the state against another. Very little new money crosses Utah borders. Instead, money is redistributed from one locale to another.
Since the game is in Salt Lake City this year, Utah’s capital city will benefit. Restaurants will feel the bump. Next year, a similar effect will be felt in Provo.
Statewide, however, this type of economic redistribution is simply a stirring of the pot. The economy doesn’t get any larger. Sorry to mix metaphors, but the pie just gets sliced up in a different way.
In contrast, when USC comes to Salt Lake City on Oct. 4, a cadre of Trojan fans will come to the state. A similar event will transpire when Oregon State comes to Provo on Oct. 13. Visiting fans will buy seats on airplanes, purchase gas, dine out, stay in local hotels, and maybe even check out an art gallery or museum. As they bring new money into the state, Utah’s economy enlarges.
While the BYU-Utah game does not create a sizable short-term economic benefit, it does create economic value for the state over the long run. ESPN2’s prime time coverage puts a focus on the Beehive State. BYU’s large national following and Utah’s PAC12 credentials draws a crowd. If Saturday’s prime-time telecast attracts anything close to last week’s games, as many as 4 million viewers in 2.8 million households around the country will see Utah’s extraordinary Wasatch Mountains, our phenomenal downtown, and, best of all, the University of Utah’s large student section THE MUSS. I feel confident people will like what they see.
This exposure will pay long-term economic dividends to the place we call home.