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Once a celebrity is being referred to exclusively by their first name, you can bet that wherever they go the money will follow. That was the case when Deion Sanders—better known just as Deion—showed up in Boulder this year to take the reins of the University of Colorado football program. For the first time in a generation, the Buffs were not only relevant but one of the biggest stories in college football to begin the season. And while the Buffs 4–8 record earned them a last place finish in the Pac-12 Conference, the team’s six home games each saw more than 50,000 fans at Folsom Field and over the course of the season generated $113.2 million for the local economy, according to a recent report from Visit Boulder.
Defining economic impact is tricky. For instance, the direct impacts in Boulder—things like ticket sales, event sponsorships, food, and lodging—were estimated at $72.1 million. But the indirect economic impact—spending at other local businesses as a result of the crowd—was thought to bring in an additional $40 million to the local economy. So, how does this compare to other events in 2023 and before? Let’s take a look.
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Taylor Swift’s Two-Night Stop in Denver
Taylor Swift, en route to becoming Time’s Person of the Year, embarked on one of the largest-grossing concert tours of all time in 2023. And as the Eras Tour came to Empower Field in Denver for two nights last July, economists predicted economic impact even beyond what Deion delivered in Boulder. According to a report from the Common Sense Institute, Taylor Swift’s impact on the city was forecasted to add about $140 million to Colorado’s gross domestic product.
For comparison, a report released this fall notes that the 2022 Red Rocks concert schedule—which brought more than 100 artists to Colorado—pumped roughly $717 million into the local economy, at least $303 million of which was spent by out-of-state visitors. According to Brian Kitts, marketing and communications director for Red Rocks, it was the fourth-best attended concert venue in the world in 2023.
The Denver Nuggets’ Championship
In the wake of the Denver Nuggets winning their first NBA title in franchise history, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (EDC) studied the impact of the championship series on the Mile High City. According to their estimate, the direct economic impact in the metro Denver area was $25 million across the three home games played in Ball Arena, a figure Meredith Moon, chief economist for the Metro Denver EDC, attributes primarily to out-of-region and out-of-state visitors (thanks, Heat fans!) coming to Denver. However, Moon notes that it’s hard to know exactly how many out-of-state visitors come to any event.
“All of these estimates are fraught,” Moon says. “You can never really parse it out. You don’t know how many people came from outside the area versus people who were already here. For true economic impact, you want to look at the dollars that came from outside the region.”
The Great American Beer Festival and Other Conventions
As the largest beer festival in the United States, the Great American Beer Festival in years past brought more than 60,000 people to the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver for a three-day party featuring more than 500 breweries. The pandemic led to the event being canceled in 2020 and 2021 and its return has been somewhat subdued. According to Visit Denver, the 2023 festival saw 40,000 attendees and created an economic impact of $15.4 million.
Throughout the year, conventions hosted in Denver draw tens of thousands of out-of-state visitors and generate millions for the city. According to Visit Denver, the top ten conventions in 2023 brought more than 120,000 people to Denver and generated $200 million in economic impact.
National Western Stock Show
Dating back to 1906, the National Western Stock Show has been one of Denver’s biggest economic drivers, and the two-week event last January set an attendance record with nearly 110,000 attendees on the opening weekend alone. Featuring livestock judging, rodeos, and a cattle drive through downtown, the stock show brings people to Denver from across the region and last year was estimated to have an economic impact of $120 million.
Colorado State Fair
Each year, the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo brings roughly half a million people to southern Colorado for nearly two weeks of festivities. According to the most recent report on the fair’s impact, the 2021 Colorado State Fair generated an estimated $55.5 million for the Pueblo economy during its 11-day run.
Looking To The Future
Although Miss Americana doesn’t have a Denver stop on her 2024 Eras schedule and it’s too soon to know if Nikola Jokić will bring the Nuggets to the NBA Finals again, many of the annual events that keep the state’s economy pumping will be back on the calendar in 2024. And while the economic impact of those events will be large, Moon cautions that we may see a slight downturn in out-of-state spenders in the new year.
“We’re still seeing pandemic effects in the economy,” Moon says. “People spent a lot of money this year. We were seeing elevated demand from additional savings people had from the pandemic, but a lot of people’s money has been spent down.”
How big of an impact might that be? Well, we’ll know a lot more in a year.