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May 2nd, 2010
01:06 PM ET

Louisville Trots to the Winner's Circle

From Sports Business Analyst Rick Horrow:
Completely ignoring his name, Kentucky Derby champion Super Saver, a prerace longshot at 15-1, paid savvy bettors a not-at-all parsimonious $18.80 on the dollar for a win. Winning owners Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt pocketed around $2 million – with Casner allegedly picking up another $1.88 million on a $100,000 “greed” bet he’d placed on his own horse.

But the biggest winner on Saturday was the city of Louisville, home to Churchill Downs for going on 150 years and the beneficiary of an estimated $217 million in economic impact each spring the race takes place. And independent of what happened on the muddy track on Saturday, Louisville had a nice early win at the window this week. On Monday, it was announced that Yum! Brands, presenting sponsor of the Derby for the last couple of years, had also agreed to a $13.5 million, 10-year deal to be the main sponsor of Louisville’s new downtown arena. Coupled with occasional mega-events like the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club ($125 million in local economic gains and 18,000 hotel rooms filled) and the year-round throngs that come to visit the Louisville Slugger bat factory and museum, Louisville is sittin’ pretty from big time sports.

Super Saver + Yum! + Little Leaguers + Louisville = Winners Circle.

Down the road a bit and paying close attention is Charlotte, North Carolina, where as the PGA Quail Hollow Championship wraps up a Tiger Woods-less weekend. The city is preparing for a much bigger, more permanent sports star. On May 11, the $200 million NASCAR Hall of Fame opens its doors there. Local politicians are hoping that the estimated influx of 800,000 motor sports fanatics each year will quickly repay the $200 million in construction costs for the museum and adjacent convention center ballroom they financed via new hotel room taxes, and NASCAR execs hope that the spectacular museum – filled with $30 million in displays and exhibits – turns around the sports’ declining popularity.

Louisville and Charlotte are strikingly similar in their Southern city makeup, but both reflect the need of most American communities to draw tourist and sponsorship dollars via sports to fund broader cultural and educational initiatives in the community. NASCAR sponsors are kicking in more than $22 million for the Charlotte Hall of Fame, which will anchor a cultural district that also includes the Knight Theater, the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. But without the city’s tax revenue contribution, the NASCAR museum there would have blown a tire.

Whether Louisville, Charlotte or elsewhere, when pro sports, fans, local leadership and Corporate America team up, opportunities abound for local residents and tourists alike. But it takes all four legs of this steed to make the economic engine churn.

Rick Horrow is a Sports Business Analyst and regular contributor to CNN. He is also co-author of Beyond the Box Score: An Insider’s Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports


Filed under: CNN Newsroom • Don Lemon
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Mary F. Shockley

    I am watching Don Lemon tonight 05/08/2010 . I am enjoying watching his newcast. Keep up the good work.

    May 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  2. bill casner

    Where on earth did you get the 100,000 bet????
    I think you are probably referring to the promotion that Churchill did with a contest allowing the winner out of 60,000+ entrants to bet a100k on a horse in the race-And he bet on Super Saver which translated to a 900,000. That was the guy jumping up and down after the horse crossed the wire on national television
    I bet 200 on each horse
    Integrity in journalism requires verification of facts.
    Bill Casner
    WinStar Farm

    May 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm |