Win or no, Purple Pride a cash cow

by Kane Loukas

Super Bowl or not, the Vikings’ strong season delivered serious cash for businesses that capitalized on purple pride.
Nick’s Sports World in downtown Minneapolis sold more than 2,000 Randy Moss jerseys — its best-selling item — at prices ranging from $49 for a replica to $180 for an authentic jersey. Together with the No. 2-selling “Helga Hats” and a barrage of Vikings flags, jackets, hats, mittens, banners and anything else with purple and gold sewn into it, Nick’s total sales were up — 150 percent.
Retailers weren’t the only winners. Downtown bars, restaurants and hotels are also wishing for a 12-month Vikings season and the hoards of extra sales they would likely ring up.
Champp’s bar in Butler Square in Minneapolis reported a crowd of 500 sports fans for Sunday’s playoff games, up from the usual volume of 150.
“It was quite noticeable as the season went on how much busier it got,” said Champp’s manager, Michael Sanders. “This last Sunday it was standing room only. We were turning people away.” This was a lucky thing, he added. Without the Timberwolves, Champp’s, located next door to the Target Center, was “kept afloat” on Vikings business.
The downtown hotels surrounding Champp’s were enjoying full capacity this past weekend and near capacity for previous weekend games, something that’s hard to come by even when large conventions come to town.
In Duluth, 160 miles north of the Twin Cities, 200 people lined up at 10 a.m. Sunday to get a seat — not at the First Presbyterian Church — but at Grandma’s Sports Garden Bar and Grill, one of the major sports bars in the area.
“We opened our doors at 11 and we filled up in two minutes,” said Mark Rykal, the bar and service manager at Grandma’s. “When (the Vikings) lost though, it went from every seat full to every seat empty. I’m a Packers fan so I kind of giggled, but the serious side is that Grandma’s is going to lose the business we might have had for the Super Bowl.”
The economic cheeriness bestowed by the Vikings only reaches as far out as the suburbs of Minnesota’s metropolitan areas, including Duluth. Most economists warn that professional sports fail to boost economic activity on a statewide level, according to research from the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development.
The impact benefits the metropolitan area largely and it can possibly damage the outlying communities year-round as downtown events draw customers away from local businesses and retailers.
Doug Dalager isn’t an economist, but he relates to the argument. He points out that when people go to the bar to drink, they usually pass up another option, like eating.
As general manager of Grandma’s Saloon and Grill in Duluth — the restaurant venue separate from the Grandma’s sports bar — Dalager said he’s seen business slump with every Vikings win.
“The success of the Vikings has been a downer for us,” said Dalager, before mentioning the lines outside the Grandma’s sports bar. “Every time they played there was a dip in sales,” he said, despite a spike in alcohol consumption.
People might have stopped raising their glasses to the Vikings. Target stores, on the other hand, haven’t marked down their Vikings merchandise and are expecting the cash register blitz to continue.