Saturday, May 29, 2004

Skaters' cash infusion small

Mobile Series attracts tens of thousands, but most come from the area

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

More than 60,000 spectators are expected to attend this weekend's Mobile Skatepark Series at Sawyer Point, ranking its attendance at the top of the list of conventions and expos planned for Greater Cincinnati this year.

But the vast majority of those attending the event already live in the area, which means the economic impact of spending by outside visitors is marginal.

The free five-day event features amateur and professional skateboarding, BMX bike and in-line skating competitions, and music concerts.

"In our case, we are one of the major sponsors of the event and the host hotel, so we get a lot of the transient business that does come in from out of town," said Greg Kaylor, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. "But in terms of being a big stimulus for hotel room night (bookings) in the downtown area, it's probably very mediocre."

According to a study from the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corp., the Skatepark Series drew a crowd of about 70,000 in 2002 - the inaugural year. About 10,000 were non-local visitors who had an estimated economic impact of $2.2 million through spending at hotels, bars and restaurants.

That number is expected to rise to about $5 million this year. But the figure still pales in comparison to events that attract smaller crowds but more people from out of town.

"It's important to look at the mix of non-local versus local spending to get a true picture of the economic impact of an event," said Doug Olberding, professor of sports management at Xavier University. "Look at it this way. If I live in Cincinnati and I go out and spend $50 at the Skatepark, that's money that I would otherwise have spent at a bar or a restaurant, so we can't count that as an extra boost to the economy."

But the event still can give the area an economic lift.

"The event will be broadcast on ESPN and in more than 180 countries, so the national and international exposure is huge," said Leslie Spencer, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corp.

"It gives us a chance to positively portray Cincinnati as a tourist destination.''


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