In a Pennant Race, the Local Economy is the Winner

In a Pennant Race, the Local Economy is the Winner Photo by Britt Reints | Flickr


The Pirates are embroiled in their third consecutive pennant race, and down the homestretch nobody is watching more intently than local businesses.

Winning baseball translates into bigger crowds, greater spending and better business, particularly for the hotel and restaurant industries.

Last year’s wild card playoff game alone generated an estimated $4.3 million dollars in direct spending in the region, according to an analysis of ticket sales and spending data done by VisitPittsburgh and the Pirates.

“That is brand new money to the region; we wouldn’t have that money if we hadn’t had the wild card game,” says Craig Davis, president and CEO, VisitPittsburgh. “And it’s been an upward tick each year. They can charge higher prices, all the auxiliary revenue, that goes up as well—it’s all supply and demand.”

The Pirates are averaging more than 30,700 fans a game this season and still have a chance to break the franchise regular season attendance record of 2,464,870 set in 2001. In fact, the team has only averaged 30,000 or more fans per game twice in its 129-year history: in 2001 – the first year they played in PNC Park – and last season.

Winning has clearly made the Pirates a better draw, attracting more visitors to the city. According to Davis, hotel occupancy related to baseball has gone up in the past few years, which gives hotels greater ability to control room rates. That wasn’t necessarily the case when the Pirates were losing for 20 consecutive seasons.

And visitors must eat. “When the hotel rooms are filled, that’s always good for any restaurant in the region, particularly the restaurants downtown,” says Kevin Joyce, owner of The Carlton restaurant.

Not surprisingly, bars and restaurants on the North Shore have seen more business as PNC Park’s attendance has risen. At Rivertowne North Shore, shift supervisor, Brittany Gollos, says they staff extra bartenders and servers for wild card and other high profile games. But downtown restaurants are also feeling the love.

“The relationship between sports and crowds and dining and spending is definitely a strong one, and we certainly root for as many playoff opportunities as we can get,” says Joyce. “It’s all part of creating a viable business climate.”

In 2013, the Pirates’ first winning season in two decades, food and beverage spending in Allegheny County reached $1.1 billion, a 3.2 increase over the previous year and part of a steady trend of rising tourism-related revenue in the county and region, according to state Department of Community and Economic Development data.

And it’s not just the direct spending of newcomers in the city that imprints a positive economic impact on the region. The national exposure that comes with making it into the postseason has its rewards, says Davis. “It gives us grativas. Any time you show PNC Park on national TV, you’re going to have wonderful things said about the city and that helps us tremendously.”