Dig Baton Rouge

Tigers mean big, big business for BR and surrounding economies

Every time LSU hosts a home football game, Tiger Stadium becomes the temporary home for more than 100,000 people – some from Baton Rouge but others from around the state or country.

While here, some load up on the latest purple and gold LSU Nike gear. Maybe a No. 7 jersey for a toddler so that he/she may look like Leonard Fournette or a new ball cap to stay clear of the autumn sun.

Others have plenty gear, but don’t want to commute late at night, so they stay at hotels.

Still more aren’t big spenders, but do get gas at gas stations. Before tanking up, of course, they get a few snacks for the drive back home.

All of the above are cogs in the economic machine that is LSU athletics – a powerhouse, multi-million dollar entity which both directly and indirectly feeds businesses in the area.

With the start of a new season here, the state is rooting on the Tigers, yes. But business owners and employees are likely rooting a little more, because on-field LSU success usually means dollars – lots and lots of dollars.

“LSU is an engine and when the engine is running smoothly, the car goes faster,” longtime and well-known economist Loren Scott said at a recent presentation. “A lot of businesses in the state do better when LSU is playing at a high level. LSU sports are a very strong economic engine and without that engine, a lot of people would not be able to enjoy a lot of the business that comes along with it.”

DIRECT IMPLICATIONS – HELPING THE UNIVERSITY IN A TOUGH TIME

Louisiana’s economic climate isn’t ideal.

Dollars for education are either cut or gone completely – so bad that some programs have been eliminated around the state, while hundreds of employees have been laid off.

But LSU sports turn a massive profit each year in ticket sales, TV deals, apparel sales and other revenue streams, which make the Tigers among the richest athletic departments in the country.

The monies, of course, help LSU stay upright in the arm’s race, funding facilities, locker rooms and inflating coaching salaries. The LSU football staff alone has several guys earning more than $1 million per year.

Others around the country have staffs which pay out even richer deals.

But it’s not all self-fulfilling.

Since LSU’s athletic boom, the Tigers have given millions of dollars back to the university, which have drastically helped to offset some of the cuts we’ve seen in Louisiana.

LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said that will continue as long as the department has the funds available to do so.

The athletic department is also fully independently funded and does not generate any money at all from student fees.

“These funds provide vital resources for our students, faculty and staff and they help to sustain LSU as one of the top research institutions in the country,” said Joe Alleva, the Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics at LSU.

INDIRECT IMPACTS – BUSINESSES NEED LSU, TOO

Tommy Leslie has worked in bars in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans for close to six years as a bartender.

Leslie isn’t from Louisiana and grew up a fan of the University of Georgia.

But since moving to Louisiana as a teenager, he casually started rooting for LSU.

Once getting into bartending, that hobby because a passion and he’s not a diehard Tiger, because when LSU wins, he wins, too, in the pocket books.

“Three of my biggest nights ever in tips were based on LSU,” Leslie said. “When the team is good, big crowds come for the games. When they win, people are happier and come party after. It helps everyone.”

Leslie’s words mirror Scott’s assessments, which he’s been talking about for years at different speaking engagements around Louisiana.

On his website, www.lorenscottassociates.com, the economist has a report titled the ‘Impact of LSU’s Athletic Department’, which is an insightful, in-depth look at the money Tiger sports bring in and how those funds help literally everyone in Louisiana.

A quick peak at the lay of the land for Baton Rouge businesses can show that this is the case.

In summer time, Baton Rouge bars and night clubs lay mostly empty because most students are either back at home or are busy with summertime jobs.

But when fall rolls around, the students come back and parking lots are often overflown with traffic – many nights out of the week.

A study on Forbes.com in 2016 said that winning football means great things for “urban growth” and the “night time scene” in a town.

Baton Rouge is a great example of that, as evident by the number of clubs within a two or three-mile radius of Tiger Stadium.

But the economic engine is more than just bars and nightclubs and LSU football feeds other aspects of the economy, as well.

Since LSU football started its ascent in the early 2000s, literally dozens of new hotels have come to Baton Rouge with a big draw in that relocation being the demand that comes in the fall.

Restaurants, grocery stores and merchandisers are among many others who feel it, too.

Several on-campus shops and cart vendors are at each home game and customers routinely fill each, generating tens of thousands in sales on game days.

Gonzales woman Pamela Babin said she and her family tailgates with friends – buying all their supplies at a local grocer.

They, too, run up a hefty bill.

“We spend at least $300 or $400 per game on burgers, hot dogs, cups, plates, beer and everything else,” she said. “We do get some of it back, because we have people who pitch in, but it does get expensive. There is a lot of money involved in it all. If you’re planning to feed 50 people, it all adds up fast.”

Multiple reports, including one by Forbes, have estimated that more than 150,000 people tailgate for the biggest LSU home games. The university, itself, uses that number in recruiting online for its MBA Program.

If every person at a tailgate consumes $10 in food, drinks or other supplies, that means that grocers made $1.5 million in sales for that game.

If a game is smaller and just 50,000 people tailgate, consuming $10 per person in food, drinks or other supplies, the grocers around the state still generated $500,000.

In Scott’s report, he also discusses another indirect aspect of LSU sports: job creation.

He estimates that 1,398 jobs are created each year because of LSU sports – from hotel workers and restaurant servers to health professionals and others.

If those jobs average a salary of $25,456 per year – the average per capita income in the state, then we can assume that more than $35 million of salary income is put into the pockets of individuals – all because of LSU sports.

Of course, that money will be spent locally which trickles back to businesses – a never-ending cycle.

GEAUX TIGERS GEAUX

Everyone asked offered support for the Tigers in 2017 – some with more optimism than others.

Leslie said he’s excited about new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, adding that he will bring a new element to LSU’s team.

He said he’s being patient with the team – even with its slow start to the year.

“We have a weaker roster than normal,” Leslie said. “It will take time.”

In college football, the terms great and good are subjective based on a fan’s expectations or tastes.

But everyone around here agrees that when it comes to LSU football, there are dollars attached to every point of success.

The business owners say they hope to see many victories in 2017 and in the future.

“We need it,” Leslie said. “Everyone who is wearing an LSU shirt on the street bought it somewhere. That’s business. Everyone who parties with us after games is spending money. That’s business. LSU is not just the sport you see for three hours on Saturday. It’s business every other time of the week and year, as well.”

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