Thursday, December 31, 2020

A look at the economic loss of hockey in Springfield during the pandemic

By Zachary Baru

Just how far does the economic loss of the Springfield Thunderbirds run in Downtown Springfield during the pandemic?  The toll might be much more than one would think.  

The truly measure the loss of Springfield's American Hockey League franchise during COVID-19, you would have to start before the game is played, and before the fans even start making their way to the venue.  The full economic benefit of the Thunderbirds comes from more than just fans.  It's the players, staff from both teams and the league and the media.  Technically, players from the Thunderbirds start contributing to the local economy months weeks before the first game of the season, as all of the players are moved to the area.  But for this look at the economic input, let's keep it to a gameday snapshot.  

If you start with the players, each gameday you have a full team of players coming from out of town and visiting.  This can benefit restaurants, and if the team is staying over night, it can bring extra players along with coaches and staff to hotels.   There are also media members covering not the Thunderbirds, the away team, and the league as well.  Scouts are also frequent in the AHL, just one level below the National Hockey League.  These scouts need restaurants, as well as hotels during their stay in Springfield.

We have not even come to the fans yet.  Fans fill into Downtown restaurants before the game to have a pre-game meal or meet up with friends, and many times after the game will again go out for a post-game meal or drink at a local bar.  

Restaurants and hotels usually get most of the attention around sports events or concerts, but all businesses in the area will see more people coming in and out.  This goes for the large ones such as MGM Springfield, but also businesses and stores people might shop at such as gas stations, drugstores and other retail. 

For all of this economic activity, the locally-owned businesses see more revenue, benefiting business owners and trickling down to the paychecks of employees through wages.  But for the city and the state, the real economic gain is through local and state sales taxes.  This is especially evident when away team fans, players, staff or media stay at local hotels.  Local taxes are added to hotel bills, greatly contributing to the local economy.

While this is just a fairly quick look at how the local economy is affected by one single hockey game in Springfield, a full study would reveal the many ways businesses benefit, as does local and state tax revenue.  The Thunderbirds are an economic driver for Springfield, and the pandemic provides a rare opportunity to see truly, how important this franchise means for our city.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.  Zach also writes SportsBusinessBoston.com.

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