Cue sportscaster Marv Albert. Because when it comes to sports, the answer to the question “Will it play in Peoria?” is a resounding yes! For the past several months, an independent firm has been studying the financial impact that sports have on the Peoria area. The company, AdCo, conducted hundreds of random surveys and interviews; compiled and analyzed data; and researched industry benchmarks to determine how valuable professional, collegiate and amateur sports are to this area.

The conclusion: 61 million dollars.

The study looked at “hard” dollars (which accounted for $40 million), such as ticket sales, sponsorships, staff salaries and the money spent on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, merchandise, etc. It also counted “soft” dollars (which accounted for $8.6 million), which is basically the monetary amount given to goods and services that are donated for events. It also tabulated the hundreds of thousands of hours logged by volunteers and attributed an amount ($12.7 million) as if those people had been hired to work the various events we hold throughout the area.

Further, the study broke down that $61 million figure by classification. $10 million was attributed to professional sports (such as the Peoria Chiefs and Peoria Rivermen), $7 million to collegiate (Bradley, ICC, Eureka College), $3 million for specialty events (such as the St. Jude Peoria-to-Memphis Run) and over $40 million to amateur events.

What do all of these facts and figures tell us? Basically, they reinforce what we already knew—but now we have some proof— that from a financial aspect, the Peoria area benefits greatly from hosting sporting events; that a tremendous spirit of community exists through volunteerism (volunteers donated more than 1.6 million hours of their time last year, according to the study) and that we need to invest more in this burgeoning market segment.

The study also conducted a satisfaction survey and S.W.O.T. (Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats) analysis through its random surveys and interviews of sports organizers, attendees, participants and corporate sponsors. Here we find more positive news and opportunities for improvement. More than 67 percent of respondents were somewhat satisfied to very satisfied with our facilities, accommodations and hospitality; event organization; safety; and their overall experience here. Among the listed strengths were solid programs, an excellent volunteer base, strong corporate commitments and dedicated staff. Among the weaknesses and opportunities was the need to develop new sports venues and improve existing facilities. The study’s findings show the Peoria area has developed a solid sports economy, and there are emerging opportunities to do more.

61 million dollars. Think about that. And that doesn’t even count local high school games, which were excluded from the study. Some people may argue the individual numbers, the methods used to collect and analyze data or the overall findings themselves. But what we need to see is the forest, not just the trees. No one argues the impact the Illinois High School Association boys’ basketball tournaments have on the Peoria area. Therefore, with so many more events that are available, no one should argue that sports are a gold mine which we have only begun to tap. IBI