Financial impact minimal

ADAM CLAYTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

The loss of the Jets may have broken a lot of hearts in this city but Winnipeg is no worse off economically, according to one economist.

Ian Hudson, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Manitoba, has studied the economic impact of sports franchises on cities. Hudson said there is no evidence to suggest teams benefit a city's economy in any significant way.

"There has been a bunch of studies on this and the overwhelming evidence is that there is absolutely no connection between the economic strength of a city and whether or not they have a professional sports team," he said.

The main economic advantage to having a major professional sports franchise is a higher media profile, said Hudson. The NHL is less popular in the U.S. than in Canada but the league still generates quite a bit of media attention across North America and beyond, he said.

"People actually did know where Winnipeg was because of the Jets," he said. "So there's a whole lot of free publicity that definitely gets lost when you lose a team."

When it became apparent the Jets would be leaving town more than a decade ago, some were concerned young people would go with them. However, data from Statistics Canada shows the number of people age 20-29 who left Manitoba for other provinces actually decreased in the years following the team's departure.

Dave Angus, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn't think losing the Jets hurt this city's chances of retaining or attracting young people.

"The reality is people go for jobs," he said Dave Angus. "If you have jobs in your city, then people will move there ..."

Angus said it's difficult to calculate the impact losing the Jets had on Winnipeg but the city definitely lost one of its main calling cards. A survey commissioned by the Chamber in 2000 found 3% of Canadians outside Manitoba still mention the Jets when asked to describe Winnipeg in a few words.

"I'm not sure the financial impact has been dramatic. It's more of a branding thing," he said. "How do you measure the impact to your image? It's difficult to actually tie a dollar figure to it."

Another aspect of having a major professional sports team that's difficult to measure is the sense of community it provides a city, said Hudson.

"There is a sort of intangible benefit that you can't capture," he said. "It doesn't lead to extra jobs but it kind of makes people happier."


Videos

Photos