Visit Pensacola

What It Takes to Draw a Crowd

Published on January 26th, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
When I traveled to Chicago in June, Navy Pier was the venue for the America’s Cup World Series, highlighting needed features if the hope is to attract a crowd to watch sailing.

By description, Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It has fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities and is the top leisure destination in the Midwest.

In short, people know about it, and there is plenty of stuff to do. Plus, Chicago is a passionate sports town, winter gave way to sun tanning weather, and the Chicago Cubs had yet to fully enamor the locals. Huge crowds were the result.

Masses came to this seriously long saloon to watch a well-promoted sailing event. I spent one day at the Dark ‘n Stormy bar presented by Gosling’s Rum. You know what everyone did between races? They went for a refill. Felt like I was at sporting event.

Chicago hopes to see more events come to this venue, and commissioned a just released report from Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Center to understand the race’s local media and economic impact.

The study concluded that people came to Chicago from 48 states and 23 countries and that more than half stayed at local hotels, filling 8,000 room nights.

More findings:
195,000 people attended the event
21,000 tickets sold (for preferred access)
11,000 on-water spectators
$41.6 mm total economic impact
$3.3 million in local tax revenue
150 countries tuned in to the event
4.73 mm global viewers

Among the ticketholders, 64 percent were 45 or older with a quarter reporting an annual household income of at least $200,000. Also, 90% had at least an undergraduate degree with 40% having a graduate degree or professional qualification.

What you can’t count on is the wind, and Chicago wasn’t unlike most of the World Series venues in 2016. Translation – not reliable. Practice on Friday provided gusty conditions to draw two capsizes. Light winds on Saturday delivered one marginal race, but Sunday came through with good winds and good racing. Whew!

Getting a big city in the USA to recognize a sailing event has been hard to do, but Chicago did it. Even the skyline at night was lit with event colors and office windows spelling ‘ACWS 2016’. By the end of the year, the event was listed among the ten biggest Chicago sports business stories of 2016.

With Southwest flights direct from San Diego to Chicago, count me in for next time.

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