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During football season in Lubbock, the foot traffic around Texas Tech University runs like clockwork.
Sports fans flock to bars and restaurants, lining streets like University Avenue and Broadway Street east of campus, and local businesses and hotels fill with travelers to town to watch the Red Raiders.
Games at Jones AT&T Stadium are usually packed with fans, especially for clashes against the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma. In a Texas Tech game against Texas in 2018, the stadium was at full capacity with 60,454 participants.
“We’re just extremely busy during this time,” said Steve Massengale, Lubbock City Council member, owner of a Texas Tech sporting goods store called The Matador. “These games are extremely important to the businesses that surround the university or are impacted during these home games.”
But local businesses in the area are increasingly worried about how earnings will evolve when Texas and Oklahoma officially leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, they said. they plan to do so in 2025. While the Matador’s sales typically increase ten to fifteenfold in home football games, they often skyrocket when the Longhorns or Sooners play Lubbock.
“Our income is most likely directly proportional to the number of people in town for a game,” said Massengale.
Economists – both in Texas and out of state – have said conference realignments are unlikely to have devastating economic effects on college towns, as sports revenues have historically had lower impacts. on the local economy as a whole.
But there are indirect effects on Lubbock, in particular, because college football is so tied to the culture and pride of the region. Lubbock is one of the few sports centers in West Texas, which means tourists often flock to the area to watch games.
“If you ask me about another city, I’m just telling you the impact is zero,” said Brandli Stitzel, professor of sports economics at West Texas A&M University in Canyon. “But Lubbock is an interesting case study for the intensity of preference: ‘How much do we love the Red Raiders? The answer is a lot.
Texas Tech and local business officials have said the impending departures of UT and OU will have devastating effects on Lubbock’s economy – and residents say its tourism industry relies heavily on varsity athletics.
“Athletics is probably one of the most significant impacts of all of Texas Tech’s regional economic activities,” said Eddie McBride, chairman of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. “It is enormous.”
He said retail stores, such as businesses that sell sporting goods and clothing stores, could experience big hits and stadiums could potentially see less footfall, especially if the Big 12 fails to add a rival like Texas and Oklahoma to its roster.
“If you have fewer people going to restaurants or fewer people going to shop in retail areas, it will have a direct impact on their businesses, as well as the people they employ and the people they work for. who can spend tax dollars – even in our community when it’s not a football game weekend, ”McBride said.
Shara Konechney, owner of Piper, a women’s clothing store in Lubbock about 10 minutes from the stadium, said her store was usually packed during home games with fans looking to purchase athletic gear or shoes. transparent bags needed in the stadium.
Sales often triple or quadruple during these times. She often hires two to three additional staff to help her during the football season. So, when she heard that Texas and Oklahoma would be leaving the Big 12, she felt “crippled” and immediately thought about the impact it could possibly have on the store.
“It’s a very scary feeling of what this could do to the university and community of Lubbock and the Southern Plains,” she said.
Shortly after Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure, the Perryman Group in Waco released a report analyzing the potential economic impacts on the 12 remaining large schools in Texas, which also include Baylor University and Texas Christian University. .
The report – funded by the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce – said these communities could face devastating economic consequences whether or not the Big 12 dissolves after the departures of UT and OU.
He notes that the departures could result in losses of gross product and jobs in the region that would likely be concentrated in educational services and retail industries.
Ray Perryman, chairman of the economic analysis firm, said in a statement that without Texas and the OU, the rest of the conference would undoubtedly be faced with smaller TV deals, declining attendance. and other negative consequences. The Lubbock region could also face cuts in tax revenue.
“The result would be a reduction in sports income, tourism and economic benefits for affected communities,” he said.
UT and OU account for about 50% of the value of the Big 12 television rights contract, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said at a Texas Senate select committee hearing on UT’s departure. early this month.
But Stitzel said the wider economic impacts on the city are minimal at best. Lubbock is by no means a small town. With just over a quarter of a million people living there, it is the 11th largest city in Texas, according to Texas Demographics.
And its overall economy is also supported by other industries, such as educational services, agriculture, and manufacturing.
“Its industry mix is not particularly vulnerable,” Stitzel said.
Cullum Clark, director of the George W. Bush Institute and Southern Methodist University’s Economic Growth Initiative, agreed. He said football in Lubbock is seasonal and wouldn’t necessarily have a drastic impact on the economy.
“I would think that effect – I don’t mean zero, that would be a bit of an extreme assertion – but I think it would be rather small,” Clark said.
He added that employment during the football season is usually reserved for low-paying jobs and therefore does not contribute to a long-term economic boost for Lubbock.
“All work is honorable, but it’s not the kind of work that somehow makes people seriously upwardly mobile and very much embraces the level of wealth of the whole place,” Clark said. “I think there is probably an effect – you would probably rather host the football games than not in your city, all other things being equal – but I think it’s probably a fairly minor effect.”
Clark added that what could impact the stability and reach of Texas Tech University is whether the school is financially stable.
“The bottom line is that Texas Tech is a healthy institution,” he said.
The school’s athletic program relies heavily on Big 12 funds. Financial data from Texas Tech shows that Big 12 media rights are the program’s largest source of revenue, accounting for about a third of its total revenue.
Daniel M. Pope, the mayor of Lubbock, said in a letter to Governor Greg Abbott that a Big 12 fort is crucial for the region.
“The small local businesses that benefit from this activity create the jobs that power our city,” Pope wrote.
Disclosure: Baylor University, George W. Bush Institute, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, and West Texas A&M University financially supported The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization. which is financed in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the Tribune‘s journalism. Find a full list of them here.
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