Sports Tourism is Paying Dividends
Spokane, being in our competitive set of tourism markets, opened an indoor sports facility with a track in 2021. The Podium has been utilized as a template for estimating development costs, operating costs and return on investment for a project here in Eugene-Springfield. The following link provides a glimpse into the success of The Podium over the past year ($65 million in economic impact) and it’s important to note that the facility is only just completing its second year of operation.
Coupled with the success of The Podium is the fact that facility development lags in the western half of the United States. The vast majority of the 6,000-plus facility developments are east of the Mississippi and when the folks at Huddle Up Group dug further into the data, to evaluate those with indoor track facilities, The Podium is the only facility identified west of the Rocky Mountains. Read the Huddle Up Group memo for more information.
How it Works — The Economic Case
Visitors spend money at hotels, restaurants, cultural events and more all around our region. In 2022, their direct spending was more than $1.1 billion. Visitors also pay lodging tax that builds and sustains attractions and funds marketing to bring more visitors.
We’re doing a great job bringing visitors here. We had more than 3 million overnight visitors last year and trends show that we will far exceed that number this year. Visitor spending supports more than 11,000 hospitality jobs and this number is expected to increase 44% by 2030.
But we have a problem drawing visitors here in the winter. The seasonality of visitors is hard on hotels, restaurants, etc., requiring them to lay off staff in the winter, when we have fewer visitors.
There is a solution! We need an indoor facility that draws groups of people here in the winter. An indoor multi-use sports facility would bring tournaments from all over the region for indoor track, basketball, volleyball, pickleball and much more.
The added benefit of an indoor multi-use sports facility is that it will serve our local community. Kidsports, Willamalane and school gyms cannot meet the demand. Local teams need a place to practice and play. And our community desperately needs more emergency response space that is climate-controlled and big enough to help when the need arises.
We have worked to build a facility like this for more than a decade. Now, we finally have the pieces in place to move this project forward:
- Location: Lane County Fairgrounds. A master planning process is underway for the fairgrounds. This facility would fit well into that overall plan.
- Owners/Managers: Who operates the facility is to be determined. Several possibilities include Lane Events Center staff, KidSports, Willamalane or another group. These entities all bring experience in managing facilities and contracting with event organizers for tournaments.
- Cost: Preliminary estimates, based on the design of The Podium in Spokane which opened in 2022, is between $85-$90 million dollars. The Podium was constructed for $53 million.
- Return on investment: Sports Facilities Advisors has evaluated the cost of operations and the potential revenue from events. The estimated economic impact in years 1-5 total approximately $81 million.
- Funding: Existing and new lodging tax are expected to play a big role in funding improvements at the Lane Events Center. The region has collected an unprecedented amount of lodging tax that can get us started. Local hotel owners have agreed to the increase in the lodging tax to fund a facility like this in order to create greater wintertime visitor demand. Grants, state funding and private funding are all likely sources for a project of this magnitude.