LSU Sports Have Big Economic Impact
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ It’s a familiar scene: Saturday night, Death Valley is packed, LSU is winning and the fans are cheering. Not only cheering, they’re also spending _ shelling out for a lot more than tickets and contributing a lot more than support for the Tigers.
``We’re a small company,″ athletic director Joe Dean said at Thursday’s release of a study of the impact LSU athletics has on Baton Rouge. ``A small company with a big impact.″
The study, done by Loren Scott, director of the division of economic development and forecasting at LSU, calls the school’s athletics a significant industry, creating revenues in 1996-97 in excess of $26.6 million. That’s approximately double the sales of the average state manufacturing facility, seven times the sales of the average apparel plant in Louisiana and twice the sales of the typical food processor in Louisiana, according to the study.
In addition to getting fans to splash out the cash during sports events, the athletic department does a little spending of its own. Last year it spent $2 million on construction projects and $25.7 million for general operating purposes, all of which supports jobs for local residents.
``We’re totally independent, totally self supporting,″ Dean said. ``We take no tax dollars whatsoever and we’re the only school athletic department in the state that can say that.″
In fact, during 1996-97, the athletic department had a net profit of $321,282 which was donated to the academic side of the school.
Football, and to a lesser extent men’s basketball, are the two sports that generate the bulk of the income for the department. Baseball makes a small profit, Dean said, but not much because ticket prices are low. Tickets sell for $6 for adults and $4 for children in the 7,000-seat stadium.
More than 78,000 fans attend a typical football game in Tiger Stadium _ more people than the individual populations of 51 of the state’s parishes. Scott estimates fans spend more than $4.4 million in the area at each game.
``People think of our athletics in terms of entertainment and championships, and we have done well in those areas,″ chancellor William Jenkins said. ``But how they contribute to the area economically has been overlooked.″
LSU athletics are on a roll. The football team shook off a six-year losing streak and has had three winning seasons and three bowl victories under coach Gerry DiNardo. The baseball team has won back-to-back national championships and four since 1991. The women’s track and field teams won indoor and outdoor national titles _ including a record 11 straight outdoor titles LSU athletics ranked No. 10 nationally, No. 1 in men’s sports, No. 3 in women’s sports and No. 2 overall in the Southeastern Conference in 1996.
Over one million fans attended sporting events at LSU last year and attendance records were set in football and baseball.
``Athletics means a lot to our community,″ Dean said. ``Participating in it, watching it, being a part of it. It also means a lot to the school and the community economically though, as this study shows.″