The thousands of people who attended the Country Explosion music festival last month at Deseret Peak Complex may have pumped over $1 million into the local economy, an event organizer says.
The cumulative total attendance for the four-day music festival held July 17-20 was 54,234 for an average of 13,558 each day. Those numbers are according to Elevate Ticketing, the Tempe, Arizona-based ticketing platform that handled Country Explosion’s tickets.
There were 47,292 visitors (87.2 percent) from outside the county over the four day event, explained Mike Deaver, a consultant and spokesperson for the producers of Country Explosion.
Deaver estimated that spending by out-of-county visitors may have been as high as $67.50 per day, one-half of the amount the Utah Sports Commission estimates that tourists spend at sporting events in Utah.
That works out to an economic impact of $3.2 million, according to Deaver.
To be conservative, however, Deaver offered to cut the spending estimate in half and then in half again to make a total estimated spending of $16.87 per person per day.
“If the total spending per visitor was even $16.87 that would mean a gross economic impact of $915,198,” he said. “That is very conservative. We feel a range of total economic impact, both direct and indirect, is between $900,000 and $1.5 million.”
Deaver, who used to work for the Utah State Office of Tourism, and the Utah Sports Commission, is familiar with tourism spending figures.
The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau uses $300 as the estimated spending per day by a conventioneer. The 2014 Sundance Festival provided nearly $6.9 million in tax revenue. The Salt Lake Nitro Jam, an event held in June at Rocky Mountain Raceway in West Valley, was estimated to bring in $3 million in economic impact, according to Deaver.
In time Country Explosion will grow to be a major event for the state as well as Tooele County, he said.
At 5 years old, attendance at Country Explosion has grown from 9,750 in Vernal, to 19,500 last year at Miller Motorsports Park, to this year’s 54,234 at Deseret Peak.
“We know we’ve got some things to work out,” Deaver said. “We learned a lot this year, especially with the first time at this facility. Next year will be better.”
The estimated spending by tourists more than makes up for the county’s investment of tourism tax dollars, according to Deaver.
At $1 million total gross economic impact, the return on the investment of the county’s $400,000 in tourism tax funds would be 2.5:1.
These are only estimates, even when state commission data for July is available, it will be impossible to pinpoint the effect of Country Explosion, according to a state tax commission economist.
Ticket sales alone generated $90,000 in sales tax revenue collected in Tooele County, according to Deaver.
Although attendance figures were lower than originally expected, Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne is happy with what the county got out of its $400,000 investment.
“That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give them more money for next year,” he said.
Country Explosion officials have submitted a proposal to the Tooele County Tourism Tax Advisory Board for $460,000 in tourism tax dollars to promote their festival next year.
Aside from the economic impact, whatever it may be, Country Explosion exposed thousands of people to Tooele County that may have never been to the county before, drew a larger local crowd than the county fair, demonstrated that people will come to Deseret Peak, and helped the county learn the logistics of using Deseret Peak for large events, said Milne.
With what they learned from Country Explosion, the county may now use to manage other large events at Deseret Peak.
“They may not be concerts and they won’t get $400,000 from the county, but our staff watched and learned a lot about how to put on a large event and the impact of large events on the facility,” Milne said.
Country Explosion still has a $63,000 bill for staff time, damages, and other facility services beyond what was covered in their $60,000 rental fee, he added.
The sheriff’s department also has prepared a bill for around $20,000 for Country Explosion, according to a county official.
Tooele County is also waiting for an accounting of how the $400,000 in tourism tax money was spent, Milne said.
Country Explosion is working on the tourism tax fund report, according to Deaver.
“We are working on the specifics but the $400,000 was used to buy radio, television, and billboard space in Utah and out of state markets as well,” Deaver said. “It also contributed to online and social media marketing expenses.”
Despite the larger than expected bill for damages, Country Explosion is excited about returning to Deseret Peak.
“Deseret Peak is a perfect setting for this event,” Deaver said. “We look forward to staying here and being part of the county. We want to work with the county to make sure this event makes a positive impact on the local economy and helps with branding the county.”