SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are getting ready to spend some extra money this Saturday, as people will go to sports bars and restaurants to see BYU take on the University of Utah. Economists say the economic impact of the game is huge, but it's not the biggest of the season.
There is no question that Utahns have loved to support the rivalry game.
BYU Athletics Director of Communications Duff Tittle said, "When you're talking about that rivalry game, it's always going to be a sellout."
Tittle says the games frequently stay exciting until the last second. Remember the last-second pass from John Beck to Jonny Harline to give the Cougars the win in 2006? Then, there was the time Ute defensive back Brandon Burton blocked what would have been BYU's game-winning field goal in 2010.
At Rice-Eccles Stadium, the University of Utah takes in between $1.4 million and $1.5 million per home game, plus roughly another $100,000 in concession sales. Tittle can't say exactly how much money BYU brings in per game, but he says the energy and the atmosphere for a showdown with Utah are bumped up a notch.
"There is certainly a heightened excitement and energy. People come earlier. There are more people in our tailgate [areas]," he said.
Economic Ripple Effect
But how much of an economic ripple effect do the games have? Economists in Provo and in Salt Lake City say it's extremely hard to know for sure. They do know restaurants do well.
Craig Kimball, general manager of The Pie Pizzeria near the U said, "The BYU/Utah game was always a huge game."
Kimball says he's expecting double the amount of customers he would have on a normal day.
I'd say it's anywhere between 65 and 75 percent increase, just on that day.
–Adam Mugerian, Terzi's Pizzeria
"We'll have multiple bussers because it's usually a really quick rush right before the game and right after the game," he said.
Terzi's Pizzeria General Manager Adam Mugerian says he noticed a big spike in sales when he was managing Domino's in Provo when the Cougars faced the Utes.
"I'd say it's anywhere between 65 and 75 percent increase, just on that day," he said.
Mugerian says he hopes his location on Bulldog Boulevard, next to the campus of BYU, will send his sales up on game days. But he believes there would be more excitement for the rivalry game if it was played at the end of the season.
"It has been a long time tradition and I think the fans would love that," he said.
The benefit of exposure
Other industries in Utah see no financial benefit from this game, whatsoever. Because of how close the schools are, hotel reservations don't go up at all. Salt Lake Chamber Chief Economist Natalie Gochnour says the games against schools like USC, UCLA and Arizona State will bring more money into the city.
"We actually bring in people from outside the state who stay in hotels [and who] might elongate their stay and spend money," she said.
Still, the exposure the state gets from this game is very beneficial to both cities. Officials say people watching the game on ESPN may be enticed to visit. Downtown Alliance Communications Director Nick Como says that will help Salt Lake City year-round.
"Anything that is going to increase people's connectivity to downtown to make it feel like it's their own and have a good experience downtown is a good thing to make them want to return," he said.