Big Spending in Missoula: athletics at UM

Report shows economic significance of UM athletics

grizzly athletics UM missoula


What would it mean for the Missoula economy if Grizzly athletics at the University of Montana never existed?

That question is answered in a new report titled “The Economic Contribution of Grizzly Intercollegiate Athletics,” which was prepared by UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The full report is online at
The study finds that the operation of Grizzly Athletics provides a significant economic boost to Missoula, resulting in a more prosperous local economy.
“We always knew that our sports programs help our student-athletes realize their athletic and scholarly potential,” UM President Royce Engstrom said, “but this new report helps us quantify the economic contributions of Grizzly Athletics, and it turns out they are significant.”

Using data from 2013 to 2015, study authors reveal that UM athletics recently earned $22.9 million in annual revenue, with 79 paid employees and hundreds of student-athletes who receive support for tuition and living expenses. This activity reverberates across the Missoula economy, helping Grizzly Athletics produce:

  • 1,384 permanent jobs spread across a wide spectrum of industries.
  • $120.8 million in gross sales annually for Missoula-area businesses and other providers of goods and services.
  • $52.8 million in annual earning, including wages, benefits and earnings of the self-employed.
  • A Missoula population increase of 1,334 people.
  • About $2.5 million in Missoula spending from out-of-area attendees for each home football game.
  • $5.5 million spent on housing, food and other living expenses by 343 varsity athletes at UM.

 “For the first time we are able to deliver this comprehensive assessment of what Grizzly Athletics means to the Missoula economy,” said Patrick Barkey, BBER director and a study co-author. “In terms of permanent jobs, income and business sales, this report clearly shows how the Missoula community reaps considerable economic gain.”

The report notes that Grizzly football significantly boosts Missoula’s economy during home games. Groups coming to town average 2.7 persons who spend 1.98 nights in town. These groups spend a little over $200 per day.
Researchers found that nearly 170,000 people attended Griz football games in 2015, with 90,000 of those traveling from outside Missoula. Griz basketball attendance from out-of-area was about 9,500, and Lady Griz attendance was 8,200 for that same year. Total nonresident spending by those attending those three sports totaled $30.7 million, including airfare expenditures.

Spending covers everything from groceries to auto repair, but it was dominated by accommodations, food and refreshments, retail goods and entertainment.
“This business community has always appreciated what the University of Montana Grizzly Athletics contributes to our community,” said Kim Latrielle, CEO and president of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce. “This report is greatly appreciated as it helps us quantify the economic impact.”
Using 2014-15 figures, the report found Grizzly Athletics provided $6.6 million in employee compensation, as well as $4.4 million in scholarships, fellowships and tuition waivers. The department also spent $10.3 million on construction, equipment and other vendors. Visiting teams and officials brought in about $700,000 during all UM home sporting events.

Barkey and BBER Senior Economist Kyle Morrill produced the report at the behest of Grizzly Athletics. BBER was founded as the research arm of UM’s School of Business Administration in 1948. The study was conducted during the 2015-16 academic year.

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