Record attendance at the Carolina Panthers summer training camp at Wofford College translated into a record windfall for Spartanburg-area businesses, according to a Clemson University economic impact study released Monday.
The training camp generated $13.1 million in activity — up from $8 million in 2015 and $5.2 million in 2014. The big winners were restaurants, bars and shops, officials said.
The study was commissioned by the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This year’s attendance was up almost 75 percent over 2015, thanks in part to the Panthers’ successful season that landed them in the Super Bowl, according to Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the visitors bureau.
“We knew the Panthers going to the Super Bowl was going to create more buzz about training camp. People were hungry to see the team live again,” Jennings said in a statement. “We quickly realized there was a lot more people in Spartanburg than any previous camp we could remember.”
Craig Kinley, owner of Growler Haus bar and restaurant at 113 N. Church St., said he has seen an uptick in business the past couple of years when the Panthers are in town.
“This year was really significant with the Panthers training camp and the infamous Pokemon,” he said, referring to the Pokemon Go game that features local landmarks on mobile devices. “All our patrons and our great staff love when the Panthers come to town.”
Attendance during training week was 49,029 for 2014, 77,625 in 2015, and 135,371 for 2016, according to the report, published by Clemson senior lecturer Bob Brookover.
The average expenditure per person was $149 in 2014, $161 in 2015, and $151 in 2016, the report states.
In 2014, 44 percent of visitors to training camp traveled more than 50 miles to attend. That changed to 43 percent in 2015 and 39 percent in 2016.
Jennings stated that every dollar spent has indirect effects on the local economy. For example, a souvenir shop owners takes money generated from a sale and spends it on utilities, rent or inventory. Or a tourist dines at a local eatery, tips the wait person, who then spends that extra money here on clothes or transportation.
Allen Smith, president of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, said the numbers add up to a big win for Spartanburg.
“Spartanburg has emerged as a destination for business and tourism,” Smith stated. “More and more people are discovering that this is the place to enjoy a different slice of South Carolina charm.”