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Pittsburgh racks up bucks for every Penguins home playoff game

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By Alex Stumpf
Saturday, April 26, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Columbus Blue Jackets fans Zach and Ross Perry traveled to Pittsburgh to see their team play the Penguins at Consol Energy Center in the opening game of the National Hockey League playoffs.

They stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Downtown, and paid $85 each for tickets to the April 16 game.

The Perry brothers (Zach from Indiana and Ross from Ohio) contributed to the $3.4 million in spending and taxes that VisitPittsburgh, a nonprofit tourism bureau, estimates every Penguins home playoff game generates for the Pittsburgh economy.

Though much of that money goes to the team through ticket sales, concessions and merchandise, the city benefits as well. City Controller Michael Lamb said that about $110,000 comes in through amusement tax alone per game, and more comes from parking and sales taxes and increased traffic to hotels and restaurants.

He couldn't estimate yet the total amount these “indirect” spending sources will generate.

“The longer you go, the more benefits there are,” Lamb said. “The closer they get to the Stanley Cup, the more interest that generates, and the interest that generates brings more people into town.”

The Penguins could play up to 16 home games this playoff season if each series goes to the maximum seven games and the Penguins advance to the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final with home ice. The series with the Blue Jackets is tied 2-2 with Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

Because of the potential of more possible home games, a Penguins' postseason run can be more financially beneficial to Pittsburgh than the Steelers in the playoffs, according to VisitPittsburgh President and CEO Craig Davis. This is true despite Consol having a seating capacity that is less than one-third of Heinz Field.

“You have so many more local hockey games, but each one obviously has a smaller spend,” Davis said. “Hockey actually spends a little more than football does over the course of a year. ... It's a matter of numbers.”

Robert Morris University sports management professor David Synowka said there is fluctuation in how much the city will bring in per series, citing a number of factors, including the size of the city they play against, rivalries, and how seriously the other city takes the sport.

“There will be probably some minimal economic impact (early on) because when you look at the initial rounds of the NHL playoffs, probably most of the tickets will be sold to regular season ticketholders and people living in the Pittsburgh Penguins' market,” Synowka said. “However, I think as you start to go deep in the playoffs, you probably have somewhat of a greater impact” from more out-of-town fans.

The home team can generate forms of income from the playoffs besides ticket and merchandise sales, mainly from marketing opportunities and increased sponsors' visibility, he said.

Tom McMillan, Penguins' vice president of communications, cited promotional shirts, free noisemakers and the outdoor screening of the game at the corner of Centre Avenue and Mario Lemieux Place as postseason promotional chances that arise for the team.

“You have unbelievable marketing opportunities when there's so much focus on your team,” McMillan said “If you don't make the playoffs, you don't only miss revenue, you miss those marketing opportunities.”

McMillan said some benefits from a playoff run are not seen for years.

“It creates memories. You can't always put a dollar figure on that, but that is very important as well in addition to the pure business of selling tickets and having people come to games,” McMillan said.

Alex Stumpf is a reporter for Point Park News Service.

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