David Gard, IU assistant vice president for university economic engagement, contributed to the writing of this story.
In less than two months, SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, Calif., will host the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
When the game is over, there will be a winner and a loser. But the biggest victor of all will almost certainly be the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding region, which — based on a recent study in which IUPUI students played an instrumental role — stands to reap a multimillion-dollar economic benefit from staging the event.
Earlier this fall, the 2022 College Football Playoff (CFP) Indianapolis Host Committee released the findings of an in-depth, post-game analysis of the National Championship Game’s economic impact in Indianapolis. The study, conducted by Rockport Analytics, calculated that the event generated $156.6 million in new economic activity over Jan. 7-10, 2022, exceeding a pre-game estimate of $150 million. The study also found that 68% of those who attended the event were in Indianapolis for the first time, with 72% of those visitors saying they planned to come back.
The event and subsequent study provided a real-world learning laboratory for IUPUI students with concentrations in the field of sports data and analytics, enabling them to take lessons from and contribute to the city’s successful hosting of the National Championship Game, which was played at Lucas Oil Stadium. Their work was made possible by the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, which facilitates experiential learning opportunities for high-achieving students to conduct research and analysis for sports-related partners and to help find solutions to challenges facing the sports industry. David Pierce, professor of sports management in the Department of Tourism, Event and Sport Management, directs the institute.
Susan Baughman, president of the Indianapolis Host Committee and an IU alumna, expressed appreciation for Pierce and his students, whose contributions helped result in SportsTravel magazine naming the 2022 CFP National Championship in Indianapolis as its Best Collegiate Event.
“We are proud that this event created a lasting, positive impact on our community and are excited that it now leaves behind a legacy in the sports events industry as well,” Baughman said. “We are also extremely grateful to Dr. Pierce for creating class curriculum around the subject of economic impact for major sporting events and continuing to educate our students at IUPUI. They were a valuable asset to us in conducting the intercept studies.”
As Indianapolis prepared to host the event — the biggest football game the city had hosted since Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 — Pierce orchestrated a partnership with the Indiana Sports Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1979 as the nation’s first sports commission. The partnership enabled IUPUI students to actively participate in gathering the essential data elements needed to measure the event’s impact and in manipulating the resulting data sets for analysis and visualization.
Pierce said that the students served on the “front lines” of the data-collection effort, conducting on-site interviews with nearly 2,000 event attendees in downtown Indianapolis and at Lucas Oil Stadium during the four-day period that constitutes “Championship Weekend.” They then helped to analyze and visually represent the data they gathered. Additionally, 25 students attended a panel speaker event, where they heard various expert perspectives on the economic impact of sports events and tourism.
“This was a great real-world project for our sports analytics students to learn about economic impact methodology and see a project from data collection all the way through data visualization,” said Pierce.
David Gard, IU assistant vice president for university economic engagement, said IUPUI’s student-focused initiative offers a potential “playbook” for how colleges and universities, and the communities they serve, might engage students in experiential learning around major regional events and activities.
“This campus-community initiative, including the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute working in collaboration with the Indiana Sports Corporation from a data analytics standpoint, demonstrated how IUPUI students can not only benefit and learn from Indianapolis’ leading reputation as the premier host of championship sporting events, but could directly contribute to its economic impact as well,” said Gard. “This was a winning effort all around — providing our students with experiences they will be able to draw upon in their future careers and allowing them to contribute to a large-scale event that delivered a major positive and lasting impact in our community.”
Watch a video on the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute.