With a near-sellout crowd for a car-friendly regional matchup of Utah State and New Mexico State, the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl figures to boost its total direct economic impact on Tucson of $31 million, organizers say.
That’s up nearly 50 percent from $21 million last year and nearly double the $16.8 million estimated for the inaugural Arizona Bowl in 2015, according to estimates by University of Arizona Eller College of Management’s Economic and Business Research Center.
The Friday bowl game is nearly sold out at 42,000 tickets sold as of Wednesday, compared with 33,000 sold for last year’s contest, Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl Executive Director Alan Young said. Seating capacity for the event is 45,000.
“We are way ahead of last year, we’re almost sold out, it’s excellent,” Young said.
He credited the effective promotional efforts by the teams and their relative proximity — New Mexico State is only about four hours away by car — as well as growing local support.
Based on the increased interest this year, Young said, the bowl game stands to deliver about $31 million of direct economic impact, including spending on tickets, hotels, bars and restaurants and recreation, bowl administrative spending, and wages of part-time workers.
College football bowl games are big business.
In 2015, the 40-plus bowls generated direct and indirect spending totaling nearly $1.5 billion, with an average of $40.4 million per bowl, according to a 2016 study by researchers at George Washington University and San Diego State University.
The estimated impact of the inaugural Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in 2015 was on the high end of the minor bowls, which averaged $12.7 million.
Since its inception in 2015, the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl has provided a welcome bump of business for the local hospitality industry.
The Utah State Aggies team and its fans have filled the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa, while the New Mexico State Aggies and its followers are camped at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa. The school bands are housed at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, while bowl VIPs are housed at the new AC Hotel by Marriott downtown.
On the charitable side, the Arizona Bowl is expected to raise $300,000 this year for charities such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, up from $200,000 last year, Young said.
Beyond the numbers, the Arizona Bowl may result in more tourism and other spending by bowl attendees who return to vacation or live, he said.
“People come back and vacation or buy a second home, and that contributes to the economy,” Young said. “One thing you can’t measure is the branding of Tucson.”