The Arizona Cardinals moved their summer training camp back to the team’s regular-season home in Glendale this summer after 25 years in Flagstaff, which no doubt was gripping news to all of you Arizona Cardinals training camp fans. But since the whole move was over money — money the Cardinals didn’t want to pay in rent to Northern Arizona University, money NAU didn’t want to spend on further renovations to its facilities, and money that football advocates claimed Flagstaff would lose without the annual influx of Cardinals fans — it’s interesting to see how the city fared with summer football gone.
And the answer is pretty darn well indeed:
Sales tax revenues from restaurants and bars for July and August were up by 5.3 percent over the same two months in 2012, according to city data.
For August alone, when much of the camp was held, restaurant and bar spending was up 11.6 percent even without the Cardinals.
Spending in hotels and motels also was up, although many Cardinals fans from the Valley are day-trippers. Lodging tax collections increased 7.7 percent in July and August, and 7.3 percent in August alone.
Taken together, August revenues from the 2 percent BBB tax were up 9.9 percent compared with August last year.
“This tells me that the Cardinals training camp has some entertainment value for Flagstaff but is not as significant an economic driver as we perhaps thought it was,” said Mayor Jerry Nabours.
Now, it’s hard to tell from these numbers alone whether the Cardinals leaving truly had no impact — local sales tax revenues have been up almost every summer since 2007, as the city has been marketing itself as a cooler summer destination for Arizona residents, so it’s possible the numbers would have been even better with the Cardinals. Still, it’s a pretty significant sign that losing visiting sports fans needn’t mean disaster for a local economy: If Cardinals tourists are being replaced by Grand Canyon tourists who don’t have to worry about fighting with football fans for hotel rooms and restaurant reservations, all the better — especially since the Grand Canyon doesn’t demand new locker rooms.