August 2009, Toronto's economy was in a 'deep slump'. Toronto City Skyline via National Post.com
We often hear from UFC brass about the economic impact they make on cities and the surrounding areas when they bring a a show to town. It's been their biggest publicized lobbying point for making the sport legal and regulated in cash strapped New York whose assembly has yet again killed the possibility of boosting the state's economy for another year due to the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee Herman Denny Farrell associating a structured, officiated sport that has more thorough health and medical testing than Football, with some kind of medieval death match with weapons. Struggling business owners of New York will be glad to know this Manhattan resident is running for Assembly again in 2012.
But enough about New York. While they miss out due to politicians supposedly representing the will of the people, their neighbors north of the border finally legalised and sanctioned MMA and felt a significant impact when UFC 129 Georges St. Pierre vs Jake Shields arrived. But don't just take UFC's word for it, Canadian news media The Star featured a full page story in their business section:
Days before Canadian superstar Georges St-Pierre won his bout at UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre last April, a unanimous decision was already in among Toronto business owners like Carlos Gavilanes about the true victor of the bloody cage match: the cash register.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship went the distance for Toronto tourism and for local businesses, which took in an estimated $40 million from the most successful fight night in UFC history.
Overall, Moneris Solutions, Canada's largest credit and debit card processor, issued a report last month showing a substantial increase in dollars spent in the city on Saturday, April 30, the day of the highly-anticipated Toronto event.
Restaurants enjoyed a 19.2 per cent jump in dollars spent compared week-over-week. Similarly, bars and pubs experienced a 15.7 per cent increase - confirming that in addition to the 55,724 fans at the Rogers Centre, many more watched the popular event outside their home.
The Moneris report also showed a sizable rise in retail spending from people who made their way to the downtown core. Apparel and sporting goods stores saw a 41.3 per cent and a 33 per cent jump in sales respectively.
And many people travelled to Toronto to experience the UFC in person, as evidenced by the 20.3 per cent rise in dollars spent at hotels, says the report.
"Toronto's hotel occupancy rates were in the high 90s - which doesn't usually happen in April," notes [UFC Canada Director of Operations Tom] Wright.
UFC Canada is finalizing an economic impact report on Toronto's UFC bonanza that is expected out in August, he says, adding the $40 million estimate of the financial boon to Toronto is only a conservative estimate.
Toronto is the big city in Ontario much like New York City is in New York State, and it'll be interesting to see what impact could be made in other parts of Ontario to gauge an idea of how well places like Buffalo and Albany might do comparatively. MMA alone won't fix New York's economic problems, but UFC events can certainly offer a fresh and new approach that can be the start of boosting business. The trouble is 'fresh' and 'new' don't tend to feature in geriatric politicians' mindset.