Record attendance at this summer’s Carolina Panthers training camp at Wofford College paid dividends for Spartanburg County. According to a report released Monday by Clemson University tourism expert Bob Brookover, the 2016 camp had a $13.1 million impact on the county, a nearly 64 increase compared with $8 million in 2015.
The camp produced 263 jobs this year, compared with 174 during the previous year. It yielded $722,000 in revenue for local government and $2.3 million for state government, according to the report.
“We were pleased,” said Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “It was really palpable this year in terms of the number of folks we had in downtown this year. We knew it was going to be better than last year if the weather held, which it did.”
In August, the CVB said attendance reached 135,371 visitors in 2016. That was nearly double the previous record of 77,625 fans who attended the camp in 2015.
A visitors profile survey by the CVB showed that the number of guests who stayed overnight increased to 32 percent this year, compared with 11 percent during the previous year.
The number of guests who traveled more than 50 miles to attend the camp decreased slightly, but the number of first-time guests increased 58 percent, compared with 52 percent in 2015.
The average expenditure per guest this year was $151, compared with $161 during the previous year.
Jennings said the excitement surrounding the team after its Super Bowl appearance this past year, as well as investments by the Panthers, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Wofford College to improve the overall fan experience at the camp helped to fuel the increases.
Fans also found more restaurants, retail shops and other activities to enjoy outside of camp, particularly in downtown Spartanburg.
“I think the investment by Wofford, Lowe’s and the Panthers in the way the camp is presented made a huge difference,” Jennings said. “Kudos to all those involved. It’s a great partnership for all of us. Now the proof is in the pudding. This is where tourism starts to make its mark. These are hard dollars… It shows how it trickles down.”
The visitors profile survey found that only 58 percent of participants this year said they would not have come to Spartanburg without Panthers camp. That’s down from 80 percent in 2015.
Jennings said its difficult to predict what attendance will be like in 2017, but he anticipates enthusiasm to continue.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to have a great experience here,” he said. “I know the Panthers. They’re going to do something different next year to make it even more exciting for the fans.”
Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that the numbers reflect the team’s success and indicate the community is becoming more of a destination for business and tourism.
“More and more people are discovering that this is the place to enjoy a different slice of South Carolina charm,” Smith said.
2016 NFL Carolina Panthers summer training camp in Spartanburg
Total economic impact: $13.1 million
Impact in 2015: $8 million
Impact in 2014: $5.2 million
Number of visitors:
Average expenditure per guest:
Percentage of first time guests:
2016: 58 percent
2015: 52 percent
2014: 45 percent
Percentage of guests staying overnight
2016: 32 percent
2015: 11 percent
2014: 21 percent
(Numbers courtesy of Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau)