It’s easy to look at the eventual championship winner and focus on their path to victory or place in basketball history. Far more difficult is understanding the wider impact of the playoffs on the cities that host them. From Denver to Boston and beyond, the impact of the playoffs can be significant.
So who really wins and how different are the playoffs from the other 82 games?
We compared the period between April 13th and May 8th to benchmark data from the last 12 months to see what really changes during the playoffs.
Fans Stay Longer
Whether it be a rise in close games or the thrill of being their early fans spend more time at the arena during the playoffs. In the six locations analyzed, fans spent an average of over 13 minutes more at the arena. This peaked in Denver’s Pepsi Center at 22 minutes with Oakland’s Oracle Arena and Portland’s Moda Center seeing jumps of 20 minutes each.
Another strong increase comes from the percentage of visitors that make over $150,000. The increase in visitors with more expendable capital speaks to several different factors that could have a strong impact on the surrounding areas and the arenas themselves.
The increase is strongly connected to the rise in ticket prices that comes with the playoffs. The relatively minor jumps for Golden State and Boston are related more to their high year-round prices than setting trends in keeping playoff costs down.
However, this change also points to a unique opportunity for the surrounding areas as individuals with greater expendable income are on their way for an extended period of time. From concession sales to surrounding restaurants, this audience shift could also bring higher levels of spend.
Northeast Pubs Cash In
One example that proves this point is the rise of crossover traffic between pubs in Philadelphia and Boston and the arenas that house these franchises. 3.2% of Wells Fargo Arena attendees during this period also visited Philadelphia’s Victory Beer Hall before the game, an increase of 129%.
This was in addition to the 69% increase in post-game visits as well, an especially impressive feat considering how late the games end. The Broad Street Bullies Pub also enjoyed a massive 136% increase in pre-game visitors that then attended the game.
And Philadelphia wasn’t the only team that brought benefits to local bars and restaurants. The top ten TD Garden area pubs saw a 14% increase in bar visits from people who would then go to the arena compared to the baseline.
Long Drives in Denver
The Denver Nuggets don’t just boast a young team with vast potential, but also a fanbase willing to join them on a rise to greatness. In short, Denver fans are traveling. While most other teams have more local visitors during the playoffs than those coming from afar, the Nuggets were the only team seeing an increase in the distance traveled. The Pepsi Center saw a 7% increase in visitors traveling more than 30 miles to arrive compared to the rest of the year.
Conclusions and Takeaways
The playoffs bring a unique economic opportunity to the cities that host them. From attracting wealthier crowds to extending stays at the arenas themselves, local franchise success can have a powerful impact on the wider city. Taking advantage of these opportunities will become an increasingly critical piece for municipalities looking to maximize the value that hosting a franchise can offer.