Hoping for a playoff payoff

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

BrandonRoy If the Trailblazers make the playoffs, each game could bring $3 million to Portland’s economy.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS

PORTLAND If the Portland Trailblazers manage to make the playoffs this season the economic impact of the games may be reason to cheer even if you aren’t a fan.

For each additional playoff game the Blazers play in Portland, up to $3 million could come into the local economy, says Robert Whelan, an economist at the Eugene-based consulting firm ECONorthwest. Much of the money, which would be spent on things such as game tickets, advertising and in pubs, is a source of revenue that supports jobs, he says.

The extra income is short-lived, but “it gets people out of their homes and spending money,” says Whelan. “During a bad recession the value of entertainment increases. People are looking for an escape.”

The Trailblazers have sold out more than 60 consecutive home games, stretching from the final 27 games last season.

Depending on the event, sometimes the perceived benefits don’t add up to much and sometimes they do, experts say.

The Davis Cup, the annual professional tennis tournament, was held in Portland in 2007 and netted the local economy approximately $7 million in direct spending by tourists and media, according to the Oregon Sports Authority, the state’s sports economic development arm that lobbied for the event.

Lane County tourist and commerce observers say the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials held in Eugene last year attracted about 75,000 visitors who spent $28 million at local restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

But if the Blazers make the playoffs, the benefits of a spike in increased spending might just be a wash. That consumer spending may just be a redistribution of money that would have been spent anyway, says Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “How much of it is really new dollars?” he wonders.

Even so, if the Blazers make the playoffs the most valuable economic benefits are likely the intangible ones, such as a renewed sense of optimism during tough times.

“It’s the little, subtle things that change the whole demeanor of the city,” says Drew Mahalic, CEO of the Sports Authority.

JASON SHUFFLER

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