Nov. 21-Dec. 4, 2003
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Digest — U.Va. News Daily

Headlines @ U.Va.
Volcanic eruptions may trigger El Niño
U.Va. not complaining about Isabel’s impact
Economic Engine — U.Va. Football
The Good Doctor
Hear, hear
When language skills fail
‘The Moon Has No Home’
Artisans’ Bazaar Back For Another Season
U.Va. Football
wins benefits for Central Virginia
football game
Photos by Matthew Worden

By Charlotte Crystal

An Economic Engine
Fourth in a series

It’s a warm afternoon in September, and Cavalier fans converge on Scott Stadium. The lines at the entrance gates stream out to the sidewalk, and nearby, tailgaters stow their gear. Excitement and the twang of bluegrass fill the air. Kickoff is an hour away.

Replayed throughout the fall football season, this scene underscores the success of the University of Virginia’s 2000 decision to expand Scott Stadium to 60,000 seats.

“We try to give U.Va. sports fans a good, exciting experience so they’re eager to come back,” said Craig Littlepage, U.Va. director of athletics. “We host hundreds of athletic events that bring hundreds of thousands of people to the University and to Charlottesville to celebrate the connection folks have to this institution.”

athletics_girlsSeveral sports successes have fueled U.Va.’s reputation as a premier academic institution offering top athletic programs. They include last spring’s national lacrosse championship and swimmer Ed Moses’ qualification for the 2000 Olympic Games. Men’s and women’s basketball programs also compete at high levels.

But in terms of producing revenue for the University and the surrounding community, football is far and away the leader. During the 2001-02 academic year, the U.Va. football program brought in $12.8 million from ticket sales, broadcast payments, bowl-game receipts, concession sales and other sources. Expenses related to
football scholarships, recruiting, equipment and supplies, salaries, food and other items ran to $9.2 million — leaving about $3.6 million to support other, non-revenue-producing sports programs.

The football program is growing, thanks to several factors, including the $86 million renovation of Scott Stadium, the national visibility brought to the program by the hiring of head coach Al Groh and the success of football alumni, including Ronde and Tiki Barber, both now playing for National Football League teams.

“U.Va.’s television exposure to millions of people, especially when we field a successful team, not only showcases our athletic talent but also our sports facilities, which have won national awards for design,” Littlepage said.

football fansTen years ago, average attendance at football games was 38,340; last year it reached 56,428, an increase of 47 percent. Season ticket sales likewise grew from 23,957 a decade ago to more than 36,000 this year, setting a sales record.

Many fans are local — more than 5,000 season ticket-holders live in Charlottesville. But well over 4,000 others live in Richmond; more than 2,000, in Northern Virginia; and more than 1,000 each, in Tidewater, Lynchburg, the Shenandoah Valley and Southside Virginia.
And when out-of-town fans come to Charlottesville to watch the game, they come for the day. Or the weekend.

“We’re entirely booked, both Friday and Saturday nights, on home football weekends,” said Chris Clore, general manager of Best Western Cavalier Inn. “Football has a phenomenal impact on our business.”
Rick Butts, director of sales for the Omni Charlottesville Hotel, said his hotel’s 208 rooms are filled on football weekends — as are most of the 3,200 hotel rooms in the Charlottesville area. “Football weekends and graduation are the hardest weekends to find a hotel room in Charlottesville,” he said.

Football games typically bring more money into the community than other sports because they’re relatively long, easily lasting four hours, said Andrew Rader, director of sports promotions. So, instead of driving in to catch a game and driving home the same night, many fans build a relaxing day or a weekend getaway around the game.

And local retailers, bars and restaurants, as well as hotels, benefit.

Sean Lawford, executive chef of Bizou, a popular restaurant on the Downtown Mall, said that a football game generally means serving an additional 20 to 30 people on an already busy weekend night. Michael’s Bistro and Taphouse, a Corner hangout, also sees a significant increase in business volume on game days, both for meals and for bar business, said Janet Heath, manager, “especially if U.Va. wins.”

The increasing popularity of tailgating has meant a slide in sales at Sloan’s Restaurant on game days, said Carolyn Johnson, floor manager, but Big Jim’s Catering & Picnic Co. has climbed on the tailgating bandwagon by serving up salads and barbecue by the pound, according to Bucky McCauley, an ABC manager at Big Jim’s. Sales are strongest when U.Va. is playing a tough rival, such as Virginia Tech or Florida State, McCauley said.

Local grocery stores also see a spike in sales on game days.
“All three Charlottesville Kroger stores experience a significant increase in sales on home football game days,” said Archie Fralin, public relations manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “Our volume on fried chicken, beer, mixers, soft drinks, chips, salads, cheeses and other convenience, tailgating foods jumps 18 percent above normal.” Party trays of snacks, cheeses, sandwiches, chicken wings and relishes also are popular, he said.

Based on data gathered by the Virginia Tourism Corp., John Knapp, research director of business and economics at the U.Va. Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, estimates that visitors to Charlottesville spend an average $45 per person per day. He figures that visitors who attend U.Va.-related events — although not exclusively athletic events — contribute an estimated $58 million a year to the local economy.

Area residents whose livelihoods are tied to running a collegiate sports program also benefit. U.Va.’s Department of Athletics has a roster of 97 faculty members, including coaches and senior administrators, on a payroll of $8.6 million, and 74 classified employees, including those involved in administrative support, facilities management and housekeeping, on a payroll of $2.8 million, according to Keith Vanderbeek, associate director of athletics.

The concession stands at U.Va. sports events provide additional local employment to contracted vendors, noted Jason Bauman, associate director of athletics.

The University’s vision for its future has included upgrading athletic facilities, and friends and alumni have responded generously. Several large gifts to the Department of Athletics have enabled the University to develop modern facilities and programs, not only for football, but also for soccer and lacrosse, baseball and, most recently, basketball. Ground was broken this year for the $129.8 million John Paul Jones Arena, which will replace aging University Hall as the home of Virginia men’s and women’s basketball.

The multipurpose, special events arena is the largest of the more than 20 construction projects, valued at more than half a billion dollars, the University now has under way or in planning. All of these — not just the athletic facilities —strengthen the area’s construction industry.

“Without U.Va., we would probably only have about one-quarter of our employees, and wages and benefits would be a lot less,” said Doug Horn, vice president of Martin/Horn Inc., a local builder that employs about 100 people and built Klöckner Stadium. “All you have to do is to go into the [Shenandoah] Valley and see the market — the kinds of wages and benefits people pay in the construction industry — to get an idea of what the market would be like here without U.Va.”

Along with these tangible, economic benefits, Cavalier football also offers intangible benefits to the region. Television airtime raises the national visibility not only of the University, but also of Central Virginia, Littlepage noted.

And sports events help unify a community, he said. “Athletics bring diverse groups of people together.”

Cavalier athletes bring diverse groups together like little else in the community, says U.Va. athletic director Craig Littlepage. And many come from from out of town, filling local hotels and eateries.


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