Event spending boosts Seattle economic activity

Century Link Field With Roof Open
As events come to Seattle, tourists and locals contribute to the local economy by staying at downtown hotels, renting cars, buying souvenirs and buying food and drinks. That money is pumped into local businesses which allow them to thrive. Photo: Jeff Wilcox

Traveling events and sporting games are important to Seattle businesses as they lay the groundwork for additional spending in the local area. Some of the best opportunities for employers include large conventions and sporting events which generate additional revenue and allow businesses to thrive and prosper.

In 2016, Seattle and King County hosted 38.9 million visitors, a 2.2 percent increase from 2015, according to the VisitSeattle’s 2017-2018 annual report.

The same year, conventions brought in $397 million, the city and county hosted 20 million overnight guests and visitor expenditures hit $7 billion. Those guests generated $718 million in tax revenue and eased annual household tax burdens by $876 annually.

David Blandford, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for VisitSeattle, told Lens the city sets itself up well for associations and corporate businesses to book events at venues such as the Convention Center. He estimates Seattle books close to 50 conventions each year.

“Once we get them there, they are going to spend money on meals, transportation and provisions at the event,” he told Lens.

Convention delegates who stay at a downtown hotel for at least one night will statistically spend 2.4 days outside of the convention in some other part of the city or state, Blandford added.

“We know they will come here, spend money downtown,” he said. “They usually take some time to go on tours, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, visit a brewery. They come to the core event and spent time elsewhere as well.”

He added that those staying in downtown hotels are the “biggest fish” out of event goers.

“With consumer trade shows, people drive in and you’re talking about local residents coming too. They may get a meal or something when they are driving home…it is not quite as big as a convention of dentists or lawyers that are flying in from all parts of the country or sometimes different parts of the world.”

He added that Seattle tends to attract international employees who tend to say for five nights, which adds up in terms of meals, bar bills, transportation and tours.

“The impacts with those types of groups are significantly more impactful than say a one- or two-night show when they park and eat.”

Sporting events are also powerful revenue generators for the local economy. Michael Lopata told Lens large traveling events or sports games are huge for the annual success of his business. He is General Manager of Quality Athletics, a sports bar located near Century Link Field.

“We know the way the schedule works and the way the events are,” he said. “Even at Safeco Field we know that those are going to be our huge money-making days for the restaurant as far as revenue goes.”

The eight Seahawks home games equate to about 10 percent of the restaurant’s yearly sales, he added.

“When there is a big concert or event going on we know that those are going to drive sales for us in a big way with locals and tourists alike.”

The restaurant is also close to King Street train station which means that people have to walk by the business when heading to the events.

The restaurant changes its strategy depending on local events to prevent any delays for the influx of guests. During a game, the business could host between 1,000 to 1,2000 people. By comparison, the business might serve 100 on a non-event day.

“What we do is streamline our process. We have a “Game Day” food menu which separates out food in the kitchen so it’s much more effective to put out food for 1,200 people.”

The restaurant makes similar changes to its drink menu. “We know Sounders fans are a big beer drinking crowd. Seahawks fans are more a liquor crowd due to the earlier games. We cater to people coming to the event because we have three years of experience to know what they are looking for.”

Lopata said his business brings in $2.5 million annually. Seahawks games bring in upwards of $30,000 in revenue. Comparatively, a Sunday in the football offseason might earn the business 10 percent of a Seahawks day. Also, Sounders games bring in $20,000, and the business can make between $12,000 and $15,000 when the Mariners are playing.”

Lopata told Lens that he and his staff look at the restaurant as a year-round operation, and the additional revenue is factored in accordingly.

“We are not able to give the staff a raise just because we had a busy Seahawks day,” he said. “When we write our budgets, we look at the number of people we’d like to hire and the projected revenue for the year. We know what we are going to do on those days.”

The restaurant closes half of its facility when there aren’t any events to accommodate around 100 people. On game days, the business opens both patios and a second bar to host up to 400 fans.

“We want people to come back to us, and we want to be the pre-game spot… If the San Francisco 49ers play, we want those fans to remember the food and experience and come back.”



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