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Bringing home the bacon

When the Mississippi Development Authority provided $30,000 to Mississippi State University’s College of Business to conduct a study gauging the economic impact of the Viking Classic, Randy Watkins had an idea that the total figure would fall between $18 million and $20 million.

He wasn’t far off.

The total economic impact of the tournament, according to MSU’s study, is $22 million.

“That’s a little higher than I expected, to be honest,” said Watkins, the tournament’s director.

Watkins’ prediction was based on the last economic study of the Viking, which was conducted about a decade ago and pegged the financial punch it packed to the Jackson Metro at $13 million.

“The way the economy has grown since then, and jumped and spiked until a couple of years ago, it obviously would have been bigger with the way the tournament has grown,” Watkins said. “It’s a $4-million (purse) now; it used to be a lot smaller than that. It’s more than I thought, so I was certainly pleased with that.”

A breakdown of the numbers reveals that:

The total economic impact of the tournament is $22 million. That includes a value added total of $12.5 million, which reflects return in rents, wages, interest and profits. That economic activity created 362 jobs, including 280 direct jobs and 77 indirect jobs.

The total estimated impact on labor income came in at $7.2 million, including $4.9 million worth of income directly attributable to the event and another $2.3 million from indirect and induced impacts. Estimated sales taxes collected from Viking-related spending was $1.5 million.

Students from MSU’s College of Business acted as surveyors at last fall’s tournament. Dr. Becky Smith, an economics professor at the school, led the study. She said just under 2,500 surveys that asked patrons questions about how much they planned to spend on food, gas, hotel rooms and other tournament-related expenses were used to come up with the results.

“There was no magic number of surveys that we wanted to get,” Smith said. “Ideally, we’d have liked to get one out of every seven (patrons), but this still allowed us to get some good, on-the-ground data. We’re really pleased that we were able to get almost 2,500 surveys that were usable. We could have gotten by with a lot less.”

Said Watkins: “One of the reasons we did it is we had so many sponsors who wanted to know (what the economic impact was). Any major sponsor of anything like this wants to have an idea of what the impact is. It was pretty in-depth. They did a great job and covered a lot of bases. It was huge for us. I’m really pleased with the work Mississippi State did on this. They were very coordinated and very cooperative.”

The results of the study will be a part of the package Watkins and tournament officials present to Viking Range as part of their pitch to convince the company to extend its title sponsorship deal with the tournament beyond this year. Viking Range’s contract with the tournament expires after the last putt in July.

Watkins said negotiations have been ongoing since the last Viking ended. Getting an extension finalized as quickly as possible, he said, would be ideal, but added that there’s no make-or-break sense of urgency to the talks yet.

“We’d love to have one today, but that’s really not how it works,” Watkins said. “We should have one prior to the tournament or at least by the tournament, and even that’s not a drop-dead timeline. We’ll have one after the tournament if it’s necessary.

“The holidays sort of interrupted that a little bit, but we’re back at it,” he continued. “It’ll be a huge deal to everybody. It’s a badge of honor for us to say that we don’t think there’s a single sporting event that does more, or has a bigger impact, in Mississippi than the Viking. I don’t know what a one-day college football game does, but it’s not that.”

Dale Persons, vice president of business development for Viking, said the total economic impact of the tournament was “pretty close to what we would have thought, considering where the last one came in. These numbers show a logical growth pattern.”

Persons said, like tournament officials, Viking Range has no timetable in place for reaching an extension to the company’s title sponsorship deal.

“Right now we’re focusing on making the tournament in July as good as it can be,” he said. “We’ve got time to look at the future. There’s no huge rush. It’s good for our brand and good for the Viking name. Just like any other business decision, this will be one factor out of many. It’ll be a key consideration, but it’s just one consideration.”


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About Clay Chandler

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