SE: K-State Athletics a Driving Force to Enhance Manhattan

Karen Hibbard has been attending K-State football games for a long time, but being in Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the Wildcats’ home opener against Florida Atlantic was a special moment. 
 
For Hibbard, Director at the Manhattan Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, seeing the stadium’s latest enhancement brought her time in Manhattan full circle. 
 
“We’ve been here through all of the growth and changes,” she said, “but it was almost emotional for us to watch the crowd, to watch the game, to really see K-State dreams.”
 
Those dreams, of winning teams, unforgettable games and stadium enhancements, lead K-State fans back to Manhattan time and time again, especially on Saturdays in the fall. The result? The city has grown immensely and benefitted from visitors it wouldn’t get otherwise. 
 
Hibbard, who has worked in Manhattan since 1978 and who started her current stint with the CVB in 1997, has watched the impact first hand.
 
“If you can imagine,” she said, “the community looked much different than it is now.”
 
Each year, the Manhattan community adds on to its budding amount of attractions, and each year, K-State Athletics is a driving force allowing it to happen. 
 
K-State Athletics generates more than $428 million a year for the Manhattan community and state of Kansas, according to a thorough economic impact study performed by nationally-renowned Angelou Economics and the athletics department. Data from 2014-15 was utilized for the study, which showed more than 4,075 jobs were created from K-State Athletics’ impact as well.
 
“We know how electric America’s No. 1 College Town becomes when the Wildcats play, from filling Aggieville, Downtown and area restaurants to creating a demand that has seen in upwards of 10 new hotel properties be constructed in the past several years,” Athletics Director John Currie said. “We set out to exhaustively study ourselves this summer on various fronts, and this study from Angelou Economics paints a solid picture of the overall value and impact K-State Athletics has on the local economy.”
 
In a more direct impact, K-State Athletics has also spent $210 million on facility enhancements that has helped provide a World-Class Student-Athlete Experience for 450-plus student-athletes. Additionally, those facility enhancements accounted for more than $385.5 million in economic output from 2011-15 and created more than 2,585 jobs. 
 
“K-State Athletics is a major economic driver of the Manhattan economy, as well as for the greater state of Kansas,” said Angelou Vice President and General Manager William Mellor. “With nearly 430,000 in annual attendance for athletic events, K-State provides one of the largest and most consistent positive impacts to the economy, and much of that impact being concentrated in local businesses and retailers.”
 
To trace K-State Athletics’ impact on the Manhattan community, look no further than the area’s hotel situation. 
 
In 1997, Hibbard said Manhattan held three hotels with a total of about 700 sleeping rooms. Now, there are around 1,450 rooms that get filled up on K-State home football game weekends. 
 
“Football phenomena began to happen in the late ‘90s and the very first two hotels that came online for football were the Hampton Inn and the Fairfield Inn," she said. “They were really built so that football fans would have a place to go. Now, we have 14 hotel properties and 50 percent of our hotel properties have come online since the year 2000. Our hotel inventory has totally changed.”
 
When K-State fans travel to Manhattan for athletic events, a number the study totals more than 428,000 people a year and accounts for 257,000 hotel stays, their economic impact goes beyond buying tickets and booking rooms. They also will likely shop and dine in the Manhattan community, which continues to add new venues for these visitors because of it. 
 
“With Kansas State football being a success and our athletic programs as a whole, what has happened is there are other things that have come as well to make Manhattan a very unique and desirable place,” Hibbard said. “Our dining has improved. Our shopping has improved.”
 
The study showed that the average visitor spends roughly $289 over a 1.5-day stay, which totals $133.4 million in expenditures annually for those visiting Manhattan. Included in this total, visitors spent $42.1 million at Manhattan area restaurants and $42.5 million on hotels. 
 
“It’s been fun watching how everything has changed and to have now what that economic impact really means for us,” Hibbard said. “When visitors spend money, that helps with our sales tax receipts, which causes us to have a great community that (locals) get to enjoy, but also that is attractive to our visitors when they come to visit as well.”
 
The list of activities available to visitors after attending their K-State Athletics event continues to grow. From zip lining to the Flint Hills Discovery Center to the incoming IMAX Theater in December, Manhattan offers something for just about everyone. 
 
“Those wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago. If people came to town, they went to the game, they went home,” Hibbard said. “Now we’re really giving people a reason to come early and stay late as a community.”