Study: Yum! Center patrons spent $346 million in first four year - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Study: Yum! Center patrons spent $346 million in first four years

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John Kaatz of CSL International John Kaatz of CSL International
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- People attending events at the KFC Yum! Center spent about $346 million at the arena and around town during the facility’s first four years in operation, according to a new “economic impact analysis” funded mainly by the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised the “positive” results and Metro Council President Jim King said the study “validates” all the work he and other community leaders did to build the $238 million facility in 2010.

Yet, the consultant who prepared the $65,000 study conceded in an interview that it’s basically “impossible” to determine the real difference the Yum! Center has made in Louisville’s economy.

That’s because much of the $346 million that the study estimates was spent at and around the arena probably would have been spent somewhere in Louisville had the Yum! Center not been built.

The true “net” benefit of the arena is “a tough one to measure,” said John Kaatz of Conventions Sports & Leisure International, the Minneapolis-based firm that conducted the study.

For example, the University of Louisville still would have played 22 men’s basketball home games and people still would have bought tickets, spent money in town and perhaps stayed at hotels, whether at the spending occurred in the vicinity of the Yum! Center or near the Cardinals’ previous home court, Freedom Hall.

The study doesn’t attempt to estimate how much was generated from conventions or concerts that would not have been in Louisville otherwise, or from basketball attendees who came to the Yum! Center but would not have gone to Freedom Hall.

It does say that, of the $346 million spent at and around the arena, $101 million came from people outside Louisville. Kaatz said that’s a “good proxy” for the net benefit of the arena on Louisville’s economy.

Still, it’s impossible to know whether an out-of-town spender was really in Louisville because of the arena event or for another reason – like visiting a family member, he said. On the other hand, the Yum! Center probably has helped keep local money in town by landing big concerts that a Louisville resident would otherwise have to drive to Cincinnati or Indianapolis to attend, Kaatz said.

What’s undeniable, Kaatz said, is that the arena is directing money downtown, which is important for any city’s economic development and job attraction efforts.

“Take a look at what is happening in the downtown area – the restaurant core, the hotel development that is taking place… We’ve now created a vitality that you can’t get by dispersing those 800,000 attendees (per year at Yum! Center events) over at the university or by the airport or wherever,” he said.

King, who played a key role in the arena's financing plan and is a board member of the Louisville Arena Authority, said he expected the facility would have a $200 million or $300 million economic impact -- but there was no particular figure he had in mind to determine arena's success or failure.

"It's already been transformative for downtown Louisville, so almost any number (for the economic impact) was going to work," he said. "But the numbers we're seeing today are very, very encouraging, and I do think they validate our investment, as a city, in this arena."

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