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Are Triathlon Races a Revenue Boost or a Financial Sinkhole for the Host City? Holy Cross Sports Economist Shares Insight

Triathlete Magazine
January 12th, 2022 by 
Victor Matheson, professor of economics. Photo by Tom Rettig

Victor Matheson, professor of economics. Photo by Tom Rettig

Putting on a triathlon race is undoubtedly expensive, whether it’s a small local sprint or a major world championship event, which often translates to high entry fees for racers. But what does that mean to the host city in terms of economic impact? Should they expect it to be a revenue boosting event for the community or a financial sinkhole?

Victor Matheson, professor of economics at Holy Cross and one of the foremost sports economists in the country, was asked by Triathlete Magazine to weigh in on this issue.

Matheson, who has done extensive research on the economic impact of large scale sporting events on the host cities, and has co-authored a paper in the Journal of Sports Economics in 2009 looking at the economic impact of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, believes that typically the real economic impact is a “fraction of the numbers that were predicted ahead of time.”

One possible reason for that is what Matheson calls “crowding out.”

“Basically, locals and potential visitors may steer clear of a town when a major event happens. That means that, while yes, there are a lot of triathletes spending money downtown, non-triathletes are specifically not,” Matheson said. “Numbers generated by asking athletes how many people they brought with them and how many nights they stayed doesn’t account for the people who stayed away — and with a long-course triathlon, which is a fairly disruptive event, that number may be significant.”

To read the full article, go to Triathlete.com.

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