Shutdown of Sports in America and Losing Fans in the Stands is Costing $12 Billion and Climbing

    By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology

    In a sports town like St. Louis, the sudden disappearance of sports during the coronavirus pandemic weighs on the city, businesses, sports fans and sports organizations.

    “For some people, the only time they come downtown is for Cardinals ball games. They spend money at a bar or at a restaurant. That spending is not taking place right now,” said Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Rishe said professional sports without fans, or a limited number, is just part of possible catastrophic losses. He used the direct hit to the St. Louis Cardinals organization as an example.

    “The Cardinals probably lose somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million per home game missed from ticket revenue and fan spending at the ballpark,” said Rishe. “So you add that up across a season, and that’s a lot of money!”

    Rishe also examined publically available data to figure the loss to the national economy, focusing on the months covering the shutdown from COVID-19 through the end of summer. Rishe estimated the shutdown has impacted the sports industry by $12 billion and growing. He ran the numbers for the shutdown of all sports in the United States including professional, college, high school and youth sports. Phases of reopenings and restrictions were taken into consideration.

    Depending on what happens the many months ahead, Rishe said the estimated $12 billion impact to the sports industry could more than double. He said the shutdown can erase billions more in revenue, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

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