College sports provided Charlotte a nearly $95 million boost in 2021

Leisure travel is increasing in Charlotte — thanks in part to a handful of high-profile college sports events here. The boost comes at a needed time for the local hospitality industry.

By the numbers: The various events the Charlotte Sports Foundation put on last year — from the Duke’s Mayo Bowl to the ACC Football Championship game — had a total economic impact of $94.76 million for the region, according to data from CSF and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

  • Across five major events — both Duke’s Mayo Classic games, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the Subway ACC Football Championship and the ACC Baseball Championship — the Charlotte region drew 271,831 fans and saw 113,994 hotel rooms booked.
  • These games created $52.29 million in direct visitor spending, the latest figures show.

You may recall that the weekend of the Duke’s Mayo Classic game last September was one of Charlotte’s biggest weekends in live sports history. It drew huge crowds to Uptown — especially to Romare Bearden Park, where ESPN College GameDay hosted its popular pregame show.

  • Attendance at the Clemson/Georgia game was 74,187, the third most attended game in Bank of America Stadium history.
  • It also meant that Charlotte was the first stop on Georgia’s journey to a national championship.

Why it matters: Charlotte hotels, restaurants and bars are still grappling with reduced business travel and general slowness during the pandemic. The steady increase in weekend travel stemming from major sporting events is helping to offset some of the slow weekday business.

Mohammad Jenatian, head of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality & Tourism Alliance, told me a few months ago that he’s optimistic about the growth in leisure travel here. It’s a sign families are making Charlotte more of a weekend destination.

  • One sign this is the case: Uptown hotel data from November 2021 shows that weekend revenue is up 15% compared to 2019, according to CRVA data.

“We couldn’t have been more blessed with great games, great weather and fans that were engaged in these high-profile events that brought that kind of economic impact to the Charlotte area,” Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Danny Morrison told Axios.

The popularity of events like the Duke’s Mayo Classic games helps cement Charlotte as a sports destination. Already, CSF has announced big new future sporting events for the city, including the inaugural Jumpman Invitational, a holiday college basketball tournament.

“It’s always great to be on the national stage,” Morrison added.

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