Dr. Alan W. Hodges presented the results of a study performed last year by the University of Florida, evaluating the economic impact of the St Augustine Amphitheater on St Johns County and the local economy — taking into consideration benefits and losses on factors other than just ticket sales.
The Amphitheater is a 16-acre multipurpose entertainment and recreational facility, built in 1965 on land that is part of Anastasia State Park; located 1.5 miles south of the City of St. Augustine in St. Johns County, Florida. It was a legacy project in celebration of the city’s 400th Anniversary. The covered, semi-circular concert arena provides seating for approximately 4,000 people.
The survey, carried out to determine the characteristics and spending habits of Amphitheater attendees, found that nearly 65 percent of attendees were visitors from outside St. Johns County, and thus their spending represented new final demand that generated indirect and induced multiplier effects for the County’s economy.
Amphitheater attendees tended to be middle-aged, white, and college educated. Generally, the demographic make-up of attendees was similar to the population of St. Johns County, although the percent of black and Asian racial groups attending was lower.
Most of the survey respondents came to the area primarily to attend an Amphitheater event, although significant numbers also enjoyed downtown St. Augustine, the beaches, and other attractions in the area. About twenty percent of attendees spent one or more nights in the area with 84 percent utilizing some form of paid accommodations.
Average total spending per weighted attendee was estimated to be $143.03. The largest component of this spending was for entertainment, averaging $58.44 per attendee, which included Amphitheater ticket costs. Restaurants were the next largest expenditure item for attendees, averaging $23.55 per person, followed by lodging and food stores at $17.35 and $9.18, respectively. Together these four items comprised over three-fourths of total average spending by Amphitheater attendees.
Estimated total spending amounts were entered into a regional economic model for St. Johns County created with the IMPLAN software and county database package to estimate the Amphitheater’s impacts.
Secondary (indirect and induced) impacts were estimated only for tourist attendees while direct impacts were estimated for local attendees. Total spending was extrapolated based on total attendance to the Amphitheater of 99,608 in 2013, including 20,559 children who were given half the statistical weight of adults for the purposes of impact analysis.
Using professionally recognized assumptions, the direct, indirect and induced economic impact on St Johns County, attributable to the Amphitheater, can be estimated at $17.3 million in revenues and $10.4 million in value added.
The Amphitheater impacts represented about 0.19 percent of the County’s economy, according to this morning’s presentation. Total labor income impacts, employee compensation and benefits and proprietor income, were estimated at $6.2 million, and other property income impacts, dividends, interest payments, rents, royalties, corporate profits, etc., totaled $2.7 million. Indirect business tax impacts, which include excise, sales and property taxes, as well as, fees, fines, licenses and permits, but not income taxes, totaled $1.5 million in 2013.
The estimated employment impacts of the Amphitheater for St. Johns County in 2013 were 207 fulltime and part-time jobs. Total employment in St Johns County in 2012 was 77,683 fulltime and part-time jobs, so the Amphitheater’s employment impacts represented about 0.27 percent of total County employment.
Three-quarters of the Amphitheater’s total economic impacts were attributable to non-local visitors as a result of both the high percentage of tourist attendees and the secondary impacts attributable to their new dollars entering the County’s economy.
Dr. Hodges opined an approximate 2:1 return on the county’s investment; however, to be specific, he disclosed to the Board that another study would need to be conducted. The commission seemed to be uninterested in further studies; opting to laud the initial report as sufficient.
Commission Chair John H. “Jay” Morris, dismissed concerns expressed by those who have questioned the financial viability of continued county operation of the venue. The majority of those objections were based on ticket sales and recurring subsidies from the county budget. Morris said, “this blows them out of the water”.
The entire UF Analysis of the Economic Impact of the Amphitheatre is a 30-page report.