TORONTO â€” For the first time in 15 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors are playoff bound at the same time, providing a rare opportunity for hundreds of business owners in the city hoping to cash in.
“All year, you’re waiting and looking and following the teams so closely,” said Adam Watkowski, the general manager at sports bar Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto. “A playoff run can make or break a good year for you.”
Staff have spent the past few days preparing for the more than 600 hockey fans they expect will come for the first game between the Leafs and the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, Watkowski said. They have doubled the amount of beer, wings, burgers and fries the bar sells on a regular night, he added.
“There is no reason why during a solid playoff run, I can’t even triple my sales,” he said. “That’s how much extra business we get.”
According to Moneris, a firm that provides debit and credit processing services, there is an evident increase in revenue when one of the professional Toronto sports teams clinches a playoff spot. In 2013, the last time the Leafs were in the post-season, spending in restaurants in Toronto’s downtown was up 33 per cent year-over-year, it found.
During the Raptors’ semi-final run against the Miami Heat last year, spending at downtown bars during home games climbed 55 per cent, while spending at bars and pubs near the Air Canada Centre surged 64 per cent, Moneris said.
“There is a huge amount of excitement right now,” said Jeff Guthrie, chief sales officer at Moneris.
“There’s so much sports activity for fans and the statistics show that we love to absorb it, celebrate it and watch it together at bars and restaurants. People want to be a part of the game and there’s nothing better than high-fiving someone when the home team scores.”
Associate business professor Richard Powers said it’s not just restaurants and bars that will see benefits. Official merchandisers, hotels, taxi drivers, ticket resellers and others in the service industry will also reap the rewards, he said.
“The longer they go into the playoffs, that economic benefit perpetuates itself,” said Powers, who specializes in governance, ethics and sports marketing at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
But Davin Raiha with the Ivey Business School at Western University noted that although sports-related businesses may see increased sales during a post-season run, that’s not necessarily the case for the city as a whole.
“It’s probably overestimated how beneficial it is,” said Raiha, an assistant professor of business, economics and public policy. “The economic impact is quite small, almost in most cases, not even discernable from being zero.”
That can be attributed to a number of factors, including a loss of sales at non-sports related attractions including movie theatres, art galleries and museums during the playoffs.
Raiha said a number of global studies that looked at other sporting events such as the World Cup, the Olympics and college football games also show that there’s no real impact on sales tax revenue, incomes or permanent employment rates.
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Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press