"SPORTS JUNKIES" OR TOURISTS? WHAT COLLEGE SPORTS FANS

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1 "SPORTS JUNKIES" OR TOURISTS? WHAT COLLEGE SPORTS FANS "DO" WHEN ATTENDING A GAME Lori Pennington-Gray, Heather Gibson, and Charles W. Lane, University of Florida In recent years, sport related travel or sport tourism has increasingly gained attention both among academics and practitioners. Sport tourism is described as travel for the purpose of participating in, watching, or venerating sport (Gibson, 1998). Much of the existing literature has focused on event sport tourism, that is, travel associated with watching sports events, particularly mega or hallmark events. The term hallmark event refers to "major fairs, expositions, cultural, and sporting events of international status which are held on either a regular or one time basis" (Hall, 1989, p. 263). Hallmark events are generally thought to help position a host city as an international tourist destination and facilitate touristic activity in the years following the event (Hall, 1992b; Ritchie, 1984). However, while some researchers have discussed the positive impacts of hallmark events (Gratton, Shibli, & Dobson, 2000; Ritchie & Smith, 1991), scholars have increasingly recognized the downsides associated with these events (Matzitelli, 1989; Hall & Hodges, 1996; Obrams & Brons, 1999; Ritchie, 1999). Thus, given the challenges associated with hallmark events, Higham (1999) suggested that small-scale sports events might be more likely to have positive effects for host communities. He defined small-scale sports events as "regular season sporting competitions (ice hockey, basketball, soccer, rugby leagues), international sporting fixtures, domestic competitions, or disabled sports, and the like" (p. 87). Furthermore, Higham explained small-scale sports events usually operate within existing infrastructures, require minimal investments of public funds, are more manageable in terms of crowding and congestion compared to hallmark events, and seem to minimize the effects of seasonality. To date, the literature on small-scale sport events is sparse (Garnham, 1996; Green & Chalip, 1998; Higham & Hinch, 2001; Irwin & Sandier, 1998; Walo & Breen, 1996). This is particularly noticeable when it comes to the use of college sport as a community tourist attraction (Irwin & Sandier, 1998). In the US, college-sports events have the potential to increase city revenue and community spirit, while increasing traveler's awareness of the local community. Irwin and Sandier (1998) were among the first to recognize the tourism-related potential of fans traveling to watch college-sports events. They concentrated their investigation on people who attended ten US collegiate championships. They found that fans spent the most on lodging and retail shopping and that fans with a particular team affiliation spent more time and money at the destination. In conclusion, the authors suggested that future research on college sport and tourism should segment the analysis of fan behaviors by team affiliation. They further recommended that tourism agencies in cities hosting such events should work more closely with each other and with the universities involved to actively market the event and provide more information about the destination to potential sport tourists. Following these recommendations Gibson, Willming and Holdnak (2000; 2001) investigated the tourism-related behaviors of Gator fans who attended University of Florida (UF) football games (American football). In a two-year study, Gibson et al., found that many of the Gator fans traveled to Gainesville throughout the year to watch not only football, but a range of sports including basketball and baseball. They regarded Gainesville as a "Mecca" and their journeys as pilgrimages. Indeed, on football game-days, the psychic income that Garnham (1996) found associated with hosting small-scale sport tourism events was very much evident. Gibson et al., found that the fans contributed economically to the community primarily through lodging and food expenditures. Some fans mentioned retail shopping as part of their game day routines, but on the whole their primary motivation was to tailgate and watch the game. As Faulkner, Tideswell and Weston (1998) suggested, sports fans tend to be unimotivational when it comes to their sport-related travel and it may be hard to persuade them to take part in other tourism activities. Fans of all ages spoke of treating the away games as mini-vacations and arriving a day or so before the game so that they could "see some of the sights". From these insights, Gibson et al., hypothesized that the tourism benefits for small communities may lie in leveraging the events to fans of the visiting teams. However, because their studies focused on Gator fans, the question as to whether away fans are more likely to participate in a wider range of touristic activities remained unanswered. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to investigate the participation patterns of both Gator and away fans in a range of tourism activities and to assess the images that these two groups of fans hold of Gainesville, Florida- the home of the University of Florida Gators and Alachua County. The research questions guiding this study were: (1) What activities do fans participate in when they a visit Gainesville for a football game? (2) Do away fans participate in a greater number of activities than home fans? (3) Is there a difference in the types of activities that home and away fans participate in? (4) Do home fans hold different images of the County than away fans?

2 Methods Data were collected at three home football games in Gainesville, Florida in the fall of Specifically, this project was part of a larger yearlong study that examined all types of visitors to Gainesville and Alachua County Florida. A fixed choice questionnaire contained items asking about mode of transportation, demographic characteristics, number of people in the travel party, number of nights away, type of accommodation, types of information sources used to make the travel decisions, participation in 20 local activities, when the decision to participate in those activities occurred, and 23 items measuring various images of the City of Gainesville and Alachua County. The data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 10. Respondents were recoded into "home fans" and "away fans." Zip codes from the three states of the visiting teams were used to compute the "away team," whereas zip codes from the State of Florida were used to compute the "home team." Total activity participation was computed by summing all activities participated in by each person. Activity participation was measured dichotomously. Crosstabs were used to examine the differences in activity participation by team affiliation. Images of the county were measured on a 5-point scale, where 1 indicated strongly disagree and 5 indicated strongly agree. T-tests were used to examine the image differences and total activity participation between the two groups of fans. Results What activities do fans participate in? The most popular activities for both home fans and away fans were attending a University of Florida sporting event (other than the football game), dining out, shopping/antiquing, taking in the nightlife, and attending a non-university sporting event such as the "Gone Riding Florida State Championship Mountain Bike Series". Do away fans participate in a greater number of activities than home fans? The data indicated that home fans participated in more activities than away fans. Home fans participated in an average of 2.2 activities, whereas, away fans participated in an average of 2.0 activities. Is there a difference in the types of activities that home and away fans participate in? In general, both home and away fans participate in similar activities. However, statistically, home fans were more likely to dine out or attend a non-university related sporting event; whereas, away fans were more likely to go tubing in the springs. Do home fans hold different images of the county than away fans? Visitors seemed pleased with what Gainesville and Alachua County had to offer. Images of Alachua County were measured on a 5-point Likert scale, where 1 was excellent and 5 was poor. All items scored 2.04 or lower indicating that all items were considered good or excellent. People were most satisfied with the quality of sporting events in the county. Other aspects of the county that rated highly were the friendliness of the people, attractiveness of the scenery, good opportunity to increase knowledge, quality of natural areas and good place to come for the day. Home fans rated all seven differences more positively than away fans. Discussion The findings of this study suggest that college sports events attract a significant proportion of fans from outside of the local community and, as such support the proposition that small-scale sport tourism events may be beneficial for communities. Faulkner et al (1998) postulated that traveling fans tend to be "sport junkies," interested in little else besides "the game." This study tends to support this thesis somewhat as the most popular activities were dining out, attending other sports events, night life, and shopping, all common activities among sports fans (Garnham, 1996; Irwin & Sandier, 1998). However, the findings also suggest that both the home and the away fans might hold some untapped potential for tourism development within the community. Some fans may be persuaded to engage in other activities such as tubing in the springs. Perhaps the lack of participation in a range of activities by the away fans stems from a lack of awareness of what the region has to offer. When fans travel to well-known destinations such as New Orleans, knowledge about the destination may precede the fan's visit (Gibson, et al., 2001). However, when fans come to watch UF, they may be unaware of what the county has to offer. Thus, we suggest that the Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) and the university need to actively leverage the "away fan" market in particular, by raising their awareness of what the county has to offer and organizing special events to coincide with their visit. The positive images that both sets of fans hold of the county seems to suggest that both home and away fans might be persuaded to explore more of the county's attractions. The fact that home fans rated all images more positively than away fans may support the notion of "in group favoritism" (Tajfel, 1978). References Faulkner, B., Tideswell, C., & Weston, A. (1998). Leveraging tourism benefits from the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Keynote presentation, Sport Management: Opportunities and Change, Fourth Annual Conference of the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand, Gold Coast, Australia, 26-28, November. Garnham, B. (1996). Ranfurly Shield Rugby: An investigation into the impacts of a sporting event on a provincial

3 city, the case of New Plymouth. Festival Management and Event Tourism, 4, Gibson, H. (1998). Sport tourism: A critical analysis of research. Sport Management Review, 1, Gibson, H., Willming, C & Holdnak, A., (2001). Small-scale event sport tourism: College sport as a tourist attraction. Proceedings of the Leisure Studies Association Conference, University of Luton,, UK, July 17-19, Gibson, H. Willming, C. & Holdnak, A. (2000). Traveling Gators: A preliminary investigation of fans who travel to follow the University of Florida football team. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management Conference, Colorado Springs, CO, May 31st- June 3rd, Gratton, C., Shibili, S., & Dobson, N. (2000). The economic importance of major sports events. Managing Leisure, 5, (1), Green, B. & Chalip. L. (1998). Sport tourism as the celebration of subculture. Annals of Tourism Research, 25, Hall, C. (1989). The definition and analysis of hallmark tourist events. Geojournal, 19 (3), Hall, C. (1992). Hallmark tourist events: Impacts, management and planning. London: Belhaven Press. Hall, C. & Hodges, J. (1996). The party's great, but what about the hangover? The housing and social impacts of mega-events with special reference to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Festival Management and Event Tourism, 4, Higham, J. (1999). Commentary - sport as an avenue of tourism development: An analysis of the positive and negative impacts of sport tourism. Current Issues in Tourism, 2, (1), Higham, J., & Hinch, T. (2001). Sport and development at tourism destinations: Exploring mutually beneficial links. Paper presented at the Leisure Studies Association Conference Journeys in Leisure: Current and Future Alliances, University of Luton, July Irwin, R. & Sandier, M. (1998). An analysis of travel behavior and event-induced expenditures among American collegiate championship patron groups. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 4, (1), Matzitelli, D. (1989). Major sports events in Australia - Some economic, tourism and sports-related effects. In G. Symes B. Shaw, D. Fenton, & W. Mueller (Eds.), The planning and evaluation of hallmark events, (pp ). Aldershot: Avebury. Obrams, M., & Brons, A. (1999). Potential impacts of a major sport/tourism event: The America's Cup 2000, Auckland, New Zealand. Visions in Leisure and Business, J8, (I), Ritchie, J. R.B. (1984). Assessing the impact of hallmark events. Journal of Travel Research, 23, Ritchie, J R. B. (1999). Lessons learned, lessons learning: Insights from the Calgary and Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. Visions in Leisure and Business, 18, (1), Tajfel, H. (1978). Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of inter group relations. London: Academic Press. Walo, M., Bull, A., & Breen, H. (1996). Achieving economic benefits at local events: A case study of a local sports event. Festival Management and Event Tourism, 4, L. Pennington-Gray, Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA; Phone: (352) x!3j8;

4 ABSTRACTS of Papers Presented at the Tenth Canadian Congress on Leisure Research May 22-25,2002 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta Abstracts compiled and edited by Edgar L. Jackson CCLR-10 Programme Committee Karen Fox Ed Jackson Gordon Walker Copyright 2002 Canadian Association for

5 The Canadian Congress on Leisure Research is held under the auspices of the Canadian Association for Leisure Studies Le congres canadien de la recherche en loisir Se tient sous les auspices de L'association canadienne d'etudes en loisir BOARD OF DIRECTORS / CONSEIL D'ADMINISTRATION President / President Susan Markham-Starr Acadia University Treasurer / Tresorier Robert Soubrier Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres Past President / President-sortant Edgar L. Jackson University of Alberta Secretary / Secretaire Linda Caldwell Pennsylvania State University Directors / Directeurs Wendy Frisby, University of British Columbia Tom Hinch, University of Alberta Peggy Hutchison, Brock University Jennifer Mactavish, University of Manitoba Lisa Ostiguy, Concordia University Stephane Perrault, Universite du Quebec d Trois-Rivieres Jerry Singleton, Dalhousie University Bryan Smale, University of Waterloo Paul Wilkinson, York University

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