Texas Tech sports have a major impact on Lubbock's economy

The start commencement of fall sports at Texas Tech brings money, opportunities and development to the Lubbock economy. Not only does it bring attendees to Jones AT&T Stadium, but it brings tourists, students and locals to Lubbock businesses. 

Serving his third-term for the city of Lubbock, Mayor Dan Pope acknowledged the growth of Lubbock when Texas Tech was founded as the first West Texas college. When Tech opened its doors, there were less than 7,000 people in the city; now, there are over 270,000 residents, Pope said.

“There is a certain attractiveness to college towns,” Pope said. “There’s just a buzz around big athletics events. You have somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people coming from outside of town.” 

When people come into Lubbock, they spend money at businesses such as hotels, restaurants and retail. Events from Tech Athletics help stimulate spending among these occupations. 

President and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Eddie McBride said he knows game days are special to Lubbock. They are events that bring in people for more than just the Saturday game. 

“People have got to realize football game weekend is not always just Friday and Saturday, it’s sometimes leading up to and including the weekends,” said McBride. “People come into town early, especially Red Raiders who want to come back and visit their school again.” 

McBride said he has talked to many alumni who come back and shop or visit the same places they used to go to while they were students. For those businesses, it is an economic gain that allows them to re-establish relationships with these customers.

Judy Wilhelm, the executive director at the Northwest Texas Small Business Development Center Network, said the local businesses benefit greatly from the different athletic events Tech offers. 

“I think we think of football being the only thing (bringing in money), but the other is the constant flow,” said Wilhelm. “It may not be as large of an event that particular day, but the other (sports) are constantly bringing in a level of interested people.” 

To help grow their finances, small businesses should take advantage of the potential customers they may have on the game-day weekends from other sports, Wilhelm said.

“Whether it is volleyball, if it’s baseball, there is that group that follows that interest level and they’ll be coming in also,” she said. “I don’t think we equate the fact that there is still a steady stream of finances coming into the city.”

Due to the pandemic, events were either canceled or had a restriction on the number of people allowed, causing Lubbock unemployment to grow. For athletics, there were only a certain number of attendees allowed at events which hurt tourism, business and the economy as a whole. 

“You pinch Texas Tech out of the academic side of the university, or whether it be the athletics side, you pinch either one and Lubbock hurts,” McBride said. “The athletics side specifically. We do know we would lose ($6 million to $10 million) in sales tax that comes back to Lubbock during those weekends. That’s more than just job losses and the revenue we lose from sales tax.”

With the return of athletic events and students back on campus, McBride said Lubbock will have the chance to flourish under the game-day lights. 

“We are fortunate to have the students as a big part of our labor force,” Pope said. “That was a challenge last year, with so much of the school being online (it) impacted our businesses.” 

Pope told a story about how he went to a restaurant and was served by a Tech student. He said he has seen the workforce re-developing with the returning of Tech students in Lubbock. 

“We (the city of Lubbock and Tech) have grown together. We are dependent on each other; our economies depend on each other,” Pope said. “The system is our largest employer in our community, so I think in some ways we are inseparable as partners.”