Northwestern University is trying to draw more Chicagoans to its sporting events this year with a new ad campaign.

Crain’s Chicago Business talked to NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips about the school’s plans.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Paint it purple? Glad SOMEONE’S in the black

    There’s nothing quite like being an over-taxed citizen in an over-budget town, and watching your favorite tax-free fellow citizen drop some big bucks on an ad campaign for their semi-professional sports team.

    So glad someone’s in the black.

    1. Not my area of expertise, but…

      Let’s take a very naive look at this.

      Ryan Field has a capacity of 47,130. Last year, the ‘Cats averaged an underwhelming 24,190 per game, or about 51%.

      Suppose that, as a result of the marketing efforts, attendance increases to 75%, or 35,348 per game. That’s an extra 11,158 per game that weren’t attending previously, and I’m hoping an achievable goal. It would still be half of the 2009 Big Ten average of 71,769 and below Stanford’s 41,436, which I think is a comparable school and situation.

      Let’s assume that all of those spectators buy tickets at the price of $35. That’s a bad estimate, since it doesn’t take into account promotions (giveaways, Evanston Day tickets for $17, etc.) or cheaper endzone tickets, but it also doesn’t take into account the more expensive ticket prices for Big Ten play. But let’s just say it’s $35/ticket to make it easier.

      That’s $390,530/game, or, over the five home games, $1,952,650 over the course of this season.

      From what I can make of the Evanston Code of Ordinances (again, very much not my area of expertise), it looks to me that this sum is taxed twice– a 3% admission tax and an 8% attendance tax. Someone who actually knows what they’re doing, please correct me.

      That’s an 11% tax imposed, or $214,792 more in tax revenue this year. If that’s how it plays out, it would be 6% of the $3.5 million deficit anticipated for next year– hardly a solution, but definitely something the city would appreciate. It would only go up with a sixth home game next year and, ideally, increasing average attendance.

      And that doesn’t account for tax revenue from other athletic contests (basketball) or from fan spending while in Evanston. People buy stuff when they go to games, or so I’ve heard.

      This is admittedly a very naive approach to the issue, and I’m sure both the university and the city have people who actually know what they’re doing that look at this. And both of them concluded that it’s worth the investment, as the city is going all-out with this Evanston Day promotion.

      I’m not saying you aren’t overtaxed, or that it’s not frustrating that the university doesn’t share the same way in the tax burden. But maybe a successful Northwestern might just lead to benefits for the city as well. I’d much rather see them pursue that route than watch a never-ending fight over taxes that will never resolve anything.

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