The inaugural Ironman competition in Chattanooga brought thousands of participants to the city’s riverfront to swim, bike, and run for bragging rights and personal glory. When the Chattanooga Sports Committee needed to determine the economic impact of one of the biggest sporting events the city has ever hosted, they turned to Dr. Andrew Bailey, UC Foundation Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for UTC Sport and Leisure Service Administration.
“Our department has worked with the city many times. We have a good relationship with them. They trust us and our work,” Bailey said.
To study the impact of the Ironman, Bailey tasked the students in his outdoor recreation class with compiling and analyzing surveys of Ironman participants and spectators. The students hit the riverfront for several days, randomly asking for participants and then later analyzing the data they collected. The class estimated the event contributed more than $13 million to the local economy.
“The Chattanooga Ironman attracted 2,612 participants and an estimated 21,780 spectators, many from out of town. The city generated revenue from these visitors with hotel stays, restaurant tabs, attendance at other local attractions,” Bailey said.
“Many participants made several trips to Chattanooga for training before the race, and more than 60 percent of survey respondents said they planned to return to the area for leisure travel. The impact of that additional revenue wasn’t included in this study,” he said.
For Bailey, having students do research helps prepare them for future jobs.
“I like my students to do research that’s meaningful to the community and can actually make a difference. Oftentimes, students don’t understand how concepts taught in class apply to the outside world, and having them do a study like this helps them see that research they do can help people, like city officials and event planners, make better decisions,” he said.