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Pens’ Cup run brings money for city, too

Hockey fans gather outside of Consol Energy Center to watch the Penguins start the 2014 playoffs. By Alex Stumpf, Point Park News Service.

By Alex Stumpf, Point Park News Service:

Columbus Blue Jackets fans Zach and Ross Perry traveled from Indiana and Ohio to see their team play the Penguins at Consol Energy Center Wednesday night in the opening game of the NHL playoffs. They paid $85 each for tickets and stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown.

The Perry brothers are an example of how the city of Pittsburgh was able to generate $3.4 million from Wednesday’s win, according to VisitPittsburgh. That’s how much money the Penguins generate in taxes and spending for every home playoff game, the agency estimates.

While much of that money goes to the team through ticket sales, concessions and merchandise, the city benefits as well. City Controller Michael Lamb said that $110,000 comes in through amusement tax alone per game, while more comes from parking and sales taxes as well as increased traffic to hotels and restaurants. The amount these “indirect” sources will generate is not yet known, Lamb said.

The Penguins could play up to 16 home games this playoff season. Because of this wide potential of possible home games, a Penguins’ postseason run can be more financially beneficial to Pittsburgh than a Steelers one, according to VisitPittsburgh President and CEO Craig Davis. This is true despite Consol having a seating capacity that is less than one third of Heinz Field.

“You have so many more local hockey games, but each one obviously has a smaller spend,” Davis said. “Hockey actually spends a little more than football does over the course of a year. …It’s a matter of numbers.”

Robert Morris University sports management professor David Synowka said there is fluctuation in how much the city will bring in per series, citing a number of factors, including the size of the city they are playing against, rivalries and how seriously the other city takes the sport.

“There will be probably some minimal economic impact (early on) because when you look at the initial rounds of the NHL playoffs, probably most of the tickets will be sold to regular season ticket holders and people living in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ market,” Synowka said. “However, I think as you start to go deep in the playoffs, you probably have somewhat of a greater impact.”

The home team can also generate other forms of income from the playoffs besides just ticket and merchandise sales, mainly from marketing and increasing their sponsors’ visibility, he said.

Tom McMillan, the vice president of communications for the Penguins, agreed with Synowka, citing promotional shirts, free noise makers and the outdoor screening of the game at the corner of Centre Avenue and Mario Lemieux Place as chances that arise for the team in the postseason.

“You have unbelievable marketing opportunities when there’s so much focus on your team,” McMillan said “If you don’t make the playoffs, you don’t only miss revenue, you miss those marketing opportunities.”

McMillan said some benefits from a playoff run are not seen for years either.

“It creates memories. You can’t always put a dollar figure on that, but that is very important as well in addition to the pure business of selling tickets and having people come to games,” McMillan said.

Still, Lamb is looking forward to the economic impact this year’s run for the Cup can have.

“The longer you go, the more benefits there are,” Lamb said. “The closer they get to the Stanley Cup, the more interest that generates, and the interest that generates brings more people into town.”

Editor’s note: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published this story on April 26, 2014. 

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