In this era of “debt diet,” to use Gov. Ned Lamont’s phrase, not having your already tight budget cut further is a gift.
At least that’s the attitude at the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, the state’s official meetings and sports event sales and marketing organization. Noting that the CTCSB has withstood funding cuts each year since its formation in 2012, President Robert Murdock said Lamont’s proposed budget keeping the organization’s funding flat “is a positive in our world.”
The bureau’s funding from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of Tourism began at $1 million in 2012 and is now $425,000. Private sector support added another $250,000 last year.
State officials have turned their attention to the tourist trade and are considering various ways to boost a sector that contributes $14.7 billion in business sales, generates $1.7 billion in tax revenues and supports nearly 83,000 direct jobs and 121,000 indirect jobs.
“Some of the folks in the statehouse have more of a business background in this administration than in the past,” said Murdock, who was promoted to the CTCSB presidency a few days before Lamont took office. “So we’re hoping for more funding, possibly in the near term. And we do have a good story to tell.”
That story includes the fact that events booked through CTCSB in 2018 generated more than $54.1 million in spending by convention, meeting and sports events attendees during their Connecticut visits. Those events generated more than $3.6 million in taxes and supported over 17,000 jobs in, the state. For every $1 that Connecticut invested last year in the CTCSB, the organization maintains, $8.60 in tax revenue was generated for the state.
For its current fiscal year, which ends June 30, year-to-date revenue generated by Connecticut meeting and event attendees stands at $57.9 million, producing state tax revenue of $3.8 million and supporting over 15,300 jobs.
March was one of the recent bright spots for the CTCSB. A pair of “March Madness” events — the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball first and second rounds on March 21 and 23 at Hartford’s XL Center, and the NCAA Women’s Division 1 Basketball first and second rounds on March 22 and 24 at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs — was a highlight.
While final figures are not yet available, the bureau estimates that the men’s event generated over $7.8 million for the state’s economy, with the women’s games adding another $3.6 million. Visitors for both events were projected to spend over $1.5 million, supporting over 340 hospitality jobs and generating $94,000 in state tax revenue.
The 2019 NCAA Women’s Division 1 “Frozen Four” Ice Hockey Championship, held March 22 and 24 at the People’s United Center on the Quinnipiac University campus, was expected to net nearly $1.2 million in revenue and $80,000 in state sales tax from visitors, with support for over 265 jobs.
And the 42nd Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held March 22-24 at the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa, drew over 700 competitors from 40 states, Canada and Europe. Visitors were projected to spend $825,000, generating nearly $51,000 in state taxes and supporting over 325 jobs.
“We’re definitely getting more activity in Fairfield County,” Murdock said, noting that the organization will likely succeed in getting the USA BMX East Coast Nationals to return to Trumbull in 2020 after its first edition there in 2018 “overwhelmed everybody. Neither we nor they expected the amount of people who turned out for that.” The event resulted in the generation of over $2 million, more than $134,000 in state taxes and support for 795 hospitality-related jobs.
The group also played a part in landing: USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championship events at the University of Bridgeport, April 12-14; a 2019 World Curling Tour event at the Nutmeg Curling Club in Bridgeport, Oct. 24-27; the U.S. Golf Association’s Women’s Senior Open, to be held July 6-12, 2020, at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield; and the National League of Cities’ Women in Municipal Government annual summer conference, to be held July 24-27 at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn & Conference Center.
As for the possibility of more state funding, Murdock said, “We are an economic driver for the state. If you give us more money, we will make more money for you.”