The Travelers Championship requires three months of work to set up and take down a hamlet of tents and structures at the golf course, and that puts hundreds of people to work even before the first golfer checks into the Rocky Hill Marriott.
Connecticut's largest professional golf tournament started 60 years ago, in 1952 at the Wethersfield Country Club. As it gets underway again this week, its implications on the Hartford region's economy stretch beyond the $1 million given to charity annually and the millions in direct spending on hotels, meals, temporary construction and all else — $15.3 million last year, according to one analysis of last year's event.
The exact number of hotel rooms booked, meals purchased, golf shirts bought and other purchases by the fans and the tournament isn't available because so many separate businesses are involved. For example, the tournament itself books or directly tracks about 5,000 hotel room nights, tournament director Nathan Grube said, but that doesn't count fans visiting from out of state who book on their own.
Food is even harder to track. But an analysis by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center modeled how money flows generally from a the golf tournament with some specific information provided by the Travelers Championship.
No one doubts that the tournament is a significant event for the region's economy. How to measure it is an open question. In addition to the direct spending, there is indirect spending as the money ripples through the economy when, for example, a hotel hires temporary employees.
Cutting back from the overall benefit is the fact that some of the spending would have happened anyway in Metro Hartford. If a Glastonbury family spends $200 out at the golf course this Saturday, that's $200 it might not spend at, say, a restaurant at Somerset Square.
Then there is the good feeling the tournament brings to the region — which does matter, perhaps even more in the long run than the inflow and outflow of money every year if it helps make Metro Hartford a place people want to be.
"A lot of it comes down to pride in the community," said Daniel E. Kleinman, chairman of the board and legal counsel for the Travelers Championship. "When businesses are looking to recruit their new employees from all over the country, part of what they sell is quality of life of the Hartford region. One of the aspects of quality of life is entertainment, sports, arts."
Adding The Travelers Cos., a property-casualty insurer that employs about 7,000 in Connecticut, as the title sponsor has allowed the professional golf tournament to flourish as never before, those close to the tournament say.
"The prestige of the event has grown dramatically since Travelers got involved," said Kleinman, who has been involved with it for 42 years.
The $15 million in direct spending as a result of the Travelers Championship includes $6.3 million in planning, preparing and operating the event by the organizers. In addition, $1 million is donated by the tournament to Connecticut charities. Another $7.7 million is spent by participants, visitors and roughly 200,000 spectators.
Add to that about $300,000 in "taxes and other activity," according to the report by Alissa DeJonge, director of research at Connecticut Economic Resource Center in Rocky Hill.
The ripple effect, or indirect spending, totaled $12.4 million last year, according to the CERC report. Added to the $15.3 million, that means a total benefit of $27.7 million. The tournament creates 170 jobs directly associated with the event and an additional 80 jobs indirectly.
The actual tournament budget, including sponsorships, vendor fees, ticket revenue and TV money, totals about $13 million in revenue and the tournament spends about $12 million — including $6 million in payouts to golfers. The rest goes to charity.
Economists say the real immediate benefit to the region is the money it brings in that wouldn't otherwise be spent here. For example, people who come to the tournament from New York or Massachusetts are adding fresh dollars while local money might have been put to some other use in the region.
That so-called "net new spending" by golfers, caddies and, mainly, the fans during the event is estimated to be slightly more than $7.7 million, according to DeJonge's study. That's based on spending by about 22,000 out-of-state visitors and almost 450 people related to the tournament ranging from golfers and caddies to their family members, media and exhibitors.
"We did a statewide model to be extra conservative," DeJonge said. "If we were just looking at a Metro Hartford model, then anyone who would be coming in from outside the Hartford region would also be included in the net new spending."
In other words, the $7.7 million of additional spending does not take into account those visitors to Cromwell from Fairfield County who are spending money that might not be spent here otherwise.
The Hartford region may benefit from having Fairfield County visitors, but to Connecticut, the result is flat if those residents were going to spend their money elsewhere in the state.
"I suspect that most of the visitors to the event are from Connecticut — not many from elsewhere," said Stan McMillen, who retired earlier this year as managing economist for the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
"I mean it's not like the U.S. Open, or national events where people do travel from outside the region," said McMillen, an adjunct professor of economics at the University of Connecticut and visiting assistant professor at Trinity College. "If you're looking at a county analysis, yeah, people come from other counties to see the event and then Hartford County is a beneficiary, but to some extent the spending that goes on by visitors, they're substituting one thing for another."
The only way to find out the how much of the money spent would have been spent in the region anyway — so-called substitution spending — is to survey spectators, which DeJonge says CERC plans to do this year.
Grube said he made a marketing push this year in Boston more than in years past. In addition to putting posters on Metro-North to attract Fairfield County residents, the Travelers Championship also spent money on radio advertising in Boston.
WFAN's Mike Francesa is coming back to broadcast live from the Travelers Championship and, new this year, WEEI's Dennis & Callahan Show will broadcast live, too, Grube said.
The event has three types of tickets — those for a private venue on the course, those given for corporate hospitality and then general admission. Sales are up in all three, but the greatest increase is in general admission for tickets sold online.
"Part of it is awareness that we're building," Grube said. "But then also we're going to track and see what our ticket sales look like from those ZIP codes."