Intercollegiate athletics at the University of Wisconsin produces an estimated annual economic impact of $610 million for the state, a figure that has fallen by more than one-third compared to a similar study published eight years ago.
A UW official said differences in construction spending by the athletic department between 2011 and now accounts for some of the drop.
An economic impact study produced by Philadelphia consulting firm Econsult Solutions Inc. and released by UW on Friday showed Badgers sports supporting 4,480 jobs in Wisconsin, a figure that also was down from a 2011 report.
The 2011 study by Madison’s NorthStar Economics showed a total economic impact of $970 million — which equals more than $1.1 billion in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation — and 8,853 jobs.
Each study represented a snapshot in time, UW senior associate athletic director Justin Doherty said.
“It isn’t completely apples to apples from the last time,” he said.
The earlier report included planned costs for LaBahn Arena, which opened in 2012, and the Stephen M. Bennett Student-Athlete Performance Center, which was christened in 2014.
The 2019 analysis included primarily capital investments related to upkeep of existing facilities at a smaller price tag. Upcoming major construction projects at the Kohl Center and Camp Randall Stadium weren’t factored into the new study.
Econsult Solutions also took a conservative approach with the 2019 report, Doherty said.
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This year’s data showed a $395 million annual impact for Madison and an yearly influx of 1.8 million visitors to the city. The report estimated that tourism associated with UW sporting events generates $203 million in annual spending around the state.
“The fact that Badger Athletics has such an impact on our city, region and state is a great source of pride for us,” athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a news release. “Our athletic program is woven into the fabric of not only the Madison area, but all over our great state.
“The financial figures back that up and they go hand-in-hand with the strong bond we have with the residents of our state.”
The study factored in spending by the UW athletic department and by those who make indirect purchases such as tickets, apparel and lodging.
Each Badgers home football game contributes $16 million to the Wisconsin economy, according to the report.
Madison gets $1.7 million annually from hotel tax revenues associated with UW football games, the study said, and those who travel for games at Camp Randall Stadium spend more than $78 million annually in the state.
The report doesn’t figure to have a large direct impact on how UW manages its athletics operations, Doherty said, but provides valuable insight.
“We can say a football weekend at Wisconsin is a big economic driver or really has a big impact on the area or the city or the region or the state,” he said. “But doing this project put numbers to it that you can point to and hang your hat on. ...
“I think it shows a pretty significant impact; I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
The UW athletic department has more than 800 athletes across 23 sports, with nearly 400 full-time staff members. It is a self-sustaining operation, with a budget for the 2019-20 school year of $159.4 million, 11% higher than the previous year and up 61% over five years earlier.