LSU touts economic study, cites game day concerns

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) An economic study released by LSU’s athletic department on Thursday finds that Baton Rouge-area business sales related to the Tigers’ sports programs has more than quadrupled since 2001 to nearly $400 million annually.

Athletic director Joe Alleva said that growth has also caused logistical problems that will require help from the community to solve.

Alleva’s main concern is with football-related traffic around Tiger Stadium, which is undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity to about 100,000.

Area road improvements have not kept pace with stadium expansion, so an overhaul of traffic and parking plans in Baton Rouge are needed to alleviate game-day gridlock, Alleva stressed.

”It’s critical,” he said. ”We know by surveys that our fans consider that – parking and traffic – their No. 1 concern.”

The study was performed by economist Loren Scott, a former LSU professor who now runs his own consulting firm.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Mayor Kip Holden, attended the presentation by Scott and Alleva.

He said local government ”has very much a vested interest in seeing that LSU athletics are a good experience for people who live in this area, and who come from outside of this area … because we want them to come back.”

”It’s a partnership,” Daniel continued. ”City police are going to work with LSU to make sure we have the best possible traffic plan.”

Daniel noted that plans now being discussed at the city level include a public transit line linking downtown hotels and parking lots to campus.

The LSU athletic department commissions economic studies every decade or so to gauge and promote the department’s value to the community and state.

The figures in the latest study included attendance for athletic events across campus as well as ticket and concession sales and construction. Scott said he used a standard multiplier to extrapolate how direct spending at LSU athletic events, or on athletic construction projects, spurs related spending across the community.

To illustrate the volume of spending at Tiger Stadium, Scott pointed out that about 48,000 soft drinks, 14,400 hot dogs and 4,700 sausage po’ boys are consumed during a typical football game. The study also pointed out that 2,765 people work at LSU home games.

For updated annual figures, Scott relied on data from the 2012 fiscal year, the latest available when he began the study. He said attendance for all LSU athletic events that year was about 1.5 million.

Scott noted that LSU has spent an average of $28.1 million per year on construction at sports facilities during the past 14 years, spurring a total of $851 million in related business sales across the state.

Football, Scott said, accounts for about half of all revenues and spending generated by LSU sports. That is down from 62 percent in 2001, largely because LSU baseball has generated an increasing share of economic activity since the opening of a new baseball stadium in 2009.

Alleva said LSU chose to have the study released now to demonstrate why government agencies should work closely with the university to ensure people spending money to attend athletic events – and football games in particular – don’t become alienated by negative experiences such as traffic jams and an inability to find parking.

”We’re doing this to illustrate the important impact LSU athletics have on the community and how important it is for the community to help LSU,” Alleva said. ”We need our fans to have a quality experience when they come here.”