The World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo pumps more than $800,000 through the local economy, according to a study just completed by the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center at Northern Arizona University.
Based on a survey distributed during the 2000 August rodeo, the study was commissioned by the Town of Payson with the input of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. Out of 8,000 visitors to the four-day event, 384 completed the survey, which, according to the research company is "a high survey collection rate."
After tabulating survey results, the survey company concluded that "tourist spending associated with nonresident visitors to the Payson August Rodeo has a significant impact on Gila County. Specifically, the survey showed that nonresident rodeo attendees spent $551,156 in the Payson area on various goods and services. Adding "indirect" expenditures, the total impact on the Rim country economy was $825,103.
According to AHRRC Senior Research Specialist Tom Combrink, indirect spending is secondary spending that results when direct money gets spent again.
"When, for example, a hotel takes in $100 as room rent," Combrink said, "a percentage of that is spent in the community again. Maybe $10 goes to debt service, $20 goes for supplies, and $25 goes for wages. "In larger counties like Maricopa, all of that secondary spending is likely to stay in the county. In a smaller county such as Gila, on the other hand, a larger percentage leaves the county," Combrink said. "This is referred to as 'leakage.'"
Payson Town Manager Rich Underkofler said the results of the $4,000 survey indicate that the town is receiving a fair return on its rodeo outlays.
"I'm glad it was completed, because there has been a lot of speculation from both ends of the spectrum on the economic value of the rodeo," Underkofler said.
"We have certain expenditures in supporting a rodeo, including fire and police support," he said. "Our direct return is about $8,100 on our $1-a-head ticket charge, plus the additional sales tax generated by the extra expenditures.
"This survey puts a good handle on measuring where we stand, and I'd say the town is being reasonably compensated."
The survey showed that two-thirds of rodeo attendees were from outside the Payson-Rim country area, and that 60 percent of those out-of-town visitors would not have come were it not for the rodeo.
Fully 87 percent of out-of-town respondents were Arizona residents, with the top five cities of origin being Apache Junction, Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale and Tempe respectively. The top three "origin states" were California, Illinois and New Mexico.
Of those out-of-town visitors, 53 percent stayed overnight. About 40 percent stayed in a hotel, while about 25 percent stayed with friends, and about 21 percent stayed in an RV park or camped.
The study also showed that more than 75 percent of those who completed the survey had attended at least one previous rodeo. About 5 percent have been attending the August rodeo for more than 20 years.
Among the services and facilities available in the Payson area, those most frequented by survey respondents were restaurants (visited by 75 percent), gas/service stations (59 percent), Mazatzal Casino (50 percent), grocery stores (44 percent), bars and night clubs (33 percent), retail establishments (30 percent), and souvenir/art stores (14 percent).
The breakdown of spending patterns was calibrated using an average travel party of 3.2 people, or two adults and one child. That average travel party spent $189 on lodging, $125 on admission fees, $86 on groceries, $66 on entertainment and at lounges and bars, $88 on retail shopping and souvenirs, $42 on automobile expenses, and $104 on casino gaming.
Within the rodeo grounds spending patterns for non-residents and local residents were comparable. Non-residents, for example, spent $41 on food and beverages, while locals averaged $46. Retail shopping and souvenir totals inside the rodeo grounds were $65 for both non-residents and locals.
In its research notes, AHRRC pointed out that local events produce two different kinds of impact qualitative and quantitative. "Quantitative impacts focus on monetary measures ... and economic impact," the study said. "Qualitative impacts are those that contribute to the community's quality of life, historical continuity, and destination image."
While AHRRC said it is "impossible to calculate the extent to which any community's historic heritage attracts residents and visitors in the first place," those surveyed overwhelmingly thought that rodeo is important to Payson's historic image.
In fact, 90 percent of respondents either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that "rodeo is an important component of the heritage of Payson."