From The Daniel Island News|
FCC set to score big for Charleston area economy
By Jennifer Johnston
Mar 27, 2013 - 9:36:21 AM
|Increased revenue for the businesses along Seven Farms Drive on Daniel Island is clearly due to Family Circle Cup traffic during tournament week.||
|It's more difficult to attribute a spike along Charleston's King Street to the tennis tourney, since it coincides with the Cooper River Bridge Run and spring break tourism.|
Humans love to quantify their little victories. Shaving four minutes off a 5K. Approaching the express check-out with exactly 12 items. Making it to Charlotte in less than three hours. Pumping $30 million into the local economy. Oh, well, I guess that one’s not so little.
And it’s also not exactly the effort of one person. It’s the estimated economic impact of the Family Circle Cup (FCC) tennis tournament on the Charleston region, and has the fingerprints of event organizers, area business-owners, and 100,000 tennis fans all over it.
But if you had to identify a point of origin, it would certainly be Bob Moran, General Manager of the Family Circle Tennis Center. He is the hub, responsible for locating event sponsors, attracting top WTA athletes, lining up vendors, and pretty much every other spoke of the tournament that ultimately brings big dollars to the region during those nine days.
And he’s identified a compelling hook: “The story I’m telling out there, more than anything, is that, compared to other events in this town, region, and country, we are truly international. We have 28 countries in our player draw. We are going from 14 hours of international television coverage to 70 hours, covering every match on stadium court and every match on club court for the first time ever. We’ll be broadcast to 142 countries. We’ve had 185,000 visitors from 52 different counties per week to our website.”
And for the first time ever, FCC ticket packages are available for sale online. Two weeks prior to the start of this year’s event, overall ticket sales were around 11% ahead of the same time last year. Expected attendance hovers around 90,000 to 100,000, but of course Moran is always hoping to exceed that number. The million visitor mark was tipped in 2012. In addition, all 375 volunteer and 200 ball crew spots have been filled. Many of these volunteers are from the tri-county area, but Moran tell us that, “Tons are from out of town – they are tennis fans who come here just for this; it’s their vacation.”
For the fans that come from near and far, the FCC team has cleverly designed the week with themes, allowing visitors to perhaps plan their attendance around those events with which they best connect. Some of these include family weekend, military night, and a Komen-connected “pink out” day. Moran is also dialed in to the trend of daytime events seeing more out-of-towners, who may then head out to the peninsula or beaches for dinner, while evening events attract more locals. In an attempt to bridge that gap, the FCC offers happy hour in the Racquet Club every night of the tournament, with live music from a different band each night. “The goal is to have people stick around from the day session, and come early for the night session,” explains Moran.
One day that had the potential to pose a problem was the semi-final day, Saturday, April 6. It just happens to also be the same day as the Cooper River Bridge Run. But to Moran, this meant 30,000 more people in the Charleston area who may or may not have been to the FCC before. “I thought, let’s do something where we create an opportunity,” Moran explains. “So I worked with Julian (Smith, Director of the Cooper River Bridge Run), and we created a bridge run package where they can register for a pass to park here in Daniel Island, we’ll drop them off at the starting line, pick them up at the finish, and then drop them right at our front gate!” This provides participants with easy parking and shuttle bus, alleviates over 500 cars parking in Mount Pleasant or downtown Charleston, and puts hundreds more people in front of the FCC and Daniel Island. The FCC is also hosting a pre-semifinal bridge run party on Saturday from 11 am to 1 pm with live music, food, and beverages in the main concourse area of the Tennis Center.
Dave Williams of 360 Financial Partners, LLC in Mount Pleasant and president of the
Daniel Island Neighborhood Association, chimes in on the bridge run shuttle: “I think it is an excellent strategy and shows how one event that attracts thousands of people to Charleston can also bring people to Daniel Island if the right strategies are put into place. I hope that other island events and businesses can learn from this and work to integrate their own creative ideas into the many events around the area that Charleston is so well known for.”
Moran and his team are always striving to offer optimal parking and transportation to promote foot traffic to DI businesses and minimize headaches for Daniel Islanders. “The misconception is that this place gets congested,” Moran maintains. “It’s people coming in and out, and it’s easy to get here. Still, our number one goal is to make it easy, and we listen.”
This goes for island residents and businesses alike. Moran checks in with island businesses to assess their needs, even shifting parking to set the most exposure-rich path from car door to stadium steps. He indicates that it is common for Daniel Island eateries and retailers to start reaching out to him a couple of weeks prior to the tournament to find out specific timing of events so that they are appropriately staffed and armed with some targeted marketing. Moran is also working with DIBA to create a map that could be handed out to visitors for various DI events, including the increasing number of concerts at Family Circle. The map would showcase island businesses and detail their locations.
But what’s the best thing island businesses can do to put themselves in front of fans, players, and volunteers? Moran suggests contributing to the volunteer and player gift bags with freebies and coupons. He goes on to say that, for all businesses, making an impact of FCC visitors requires doing things a little differently. “You need to market,” the veteran salesman advises. “Don’t expect people to just walk in.”
With regard to that $30 million overall economic impact on the Charleston region, Moran says the FCC conducted a study with a third-party vendor to determine that figure a couple of years ago. “But we’ve been using that general number ever since, and I’d really like to revisit that data.” It’s a tall order, considering the various industries touched by this one event.
For starters, there’s lodging. Moran’s team buys 1,500 hotel nights even before fans start planning accommodations. “That’s just media, players, and onsite vendors,” he reveals. The Daniel Island Hampton Inn is booked solid weeks prior to the FCC, and can attribute that “no vacancy” directly to the tournament. But it’s not so clear-cut with the spike in reservations on the peninsula. Says Eric Monteiro, Director of Marketing for Charleston Place Hotel, “We are busy during Family Circle Cup, but we can not attribute it all to it, since it’s also Bridge Run that weekend, not to mention that Charleston is usually just naturally busy in the spring.”
And then of course there’s dining and retail. Danielle Wecksler, General Manager of Charleston Cooks! specialty kitchen store in downtown Charleston, tells us the store doesn’t really do any specific marketing for the FCC. “But we do offer several cooking classes for VIPs attending the tournament, and they are always very popular,” Wecksler relates. “In addition, I know that we get lots of folks in the store that are attending the tournament. It is always a busy couple of weeks for us.”
As for the role the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau plays in helping area businesses take advantage of business opportunities that arise from these types of events, CVB Deputy Director Perrin Lawson tells us, “Our role is to market the area as a destination; the visitors that result are potential customers for any business that offers goods or services that might apply to a visitor, from gas stations to fishing charters and everything in between.” He goes on to indicate that, in addition to the steady stream of visitors the “Top City in the World” and “Top Tennis Town” receives throughout the year, special events such as the FCC are vital to our region’s business health. “Large events that target a desirable demographic (such as FCC) are extremely important,” Lawson states. “They not only have a noticeable economic impact, they also focus favorable media attention on our region. In this case, the FCC furthers the region’s brand as an outdoor/sporting/active lifestyle destination, much as the PGA Championship did last August.”
Mary Graham, Senior Vice President of Business Advocacy for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, concurs, adding, “Indirectly, businesses are also positively impacted because events like these add to the region’s quality of life and help in attracting and retaining talent.” Though the Chamber does not collect specific information regarding increased revenue or traffic for its member businesses during special events, Graham acknowledges that every extra dollar spent is far-reaching. “Direct spending (during the FCC) has an indirect impact on every business sector. Increased spending by restaurants means they have to purchase more supplies, food, beverages, etc., so those related sectors see more business. And increased spending means more tips and wages for wait staff, who in turn increase their own household spending.” And, of course, the exposure that the FCC brings to the region results in increased tourism and real estate sales.
The regional boost is certainly not limited to transactions that occur over the nine-day tournament. Moran tells us that he recently received a thank-you note from Matt Sloan at the Daniel Island Company, indicating his gratitude for Moran’s hand in, of all things, a real estate deal. A man from France had attended the FCC in 2010 and was so impressed with Daniel Island that he ended up buying a home here just a couple weeks ago, with a plan to spend six months of the year here, and six months back in France. And the connections extend beyond actual visitors. “When people are watching on TV, and see the banners that say Charleston, SC or Daniel Island, SC,” remarks Moran, “they’ll hop online and find out more about it.”
But it’s also not all about the bottom line. Prudential has given out nearly 1,000 tickets to active military for Wednesday’s “military night,” and MUSC is underwriting tickets for breast cancer survivors for the “pink out” on Thursday. “We’ll also give a dollar for everyone who walks through our gates on Thursday back to Komen,” reports Moran.
It’s numbers like those that we really love to get behind, as humans. Still, it would be kind of cool to know how many bowls of she-crab soup contribute to that $30 million the Cup pours into our town and the area that’s lucky enough to surround it.
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