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Will the Return of UAB Football Boost the City’s Bottom Line?

Andrew Yeager, WBHM

College football is big business. Just look to last year’s College Football National Championship when the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers battled it out in Arizona. That one game had an economic impact of more than $273 million, according to a study from Arizona State University.

Boosts in tax revenue came from things such as hotels, retailers, and restaurants. But how much will Birmingham benefit from the return of UAB Football? The team returns to play Saturday after being shut down more than two years ago. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with sports economist Victor Matheson of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.



The economic impact:

“Certainly it’s going to have some, right? But when economists actually look back at both professional and college sports programs, most of the time what we see is very small or zero economic impact from programs like this.”


The reason economic impact is limited:

“Most attendees at a local game are going to be people from the local community, which means this is money that’s being spent at the football stadium that otherwise would have been spent elsewhere in the local economy … Sports definitely has an impact about where money is being spent but doesn’t have a whole lot of impact about how much total money is spent in total.”


Where a college team makes a difference:

“[Some] might be in it for the feel-good effect … This is something that’s good for Birmingham. In general it gives people an opportunity of something to do on Saturdays. So I think the big thing here is if you’re doing this to create a better environment for students and to create an amenity for the city, that’s something that we can see. We do see some evidence that sports make us happy. We just don’t see a lot of evidence that it makes us rich.”