The cancellation of the Wisconsin football season will cost the local economy nearly $100 million

MADISON, Wis. – The cancellation of the Wisconsin Badgers football season will have a severe impact on the local economy as compared to recent years, business experts say.

Jason Ilstrup, President of Downtown Madison Inc., says each home game supports roughly 3,000 jobs and brings nearly $16,000,000 to the local economy.

“Badger athletics and particularly football, basketball, volleyball and hockey, some of the bigger sports, have a huge impact on the economy of downtown and the whole area,” Ilstrup said. “It’s hotels, the restaurants, the bars, the farms that feed the restaurants. You name it.”

Ilstrup says some downtown businesses rely on home games and a handful of other large downtown events for as much as 70 percent of their yearly revenue.

“This is serious business,” Ilstrup said.  “These are people’s livelihoods. These small businesses, particularly the ones on state street or near the stadium. They’re owned by working families.”

Between August and November, hotels and restaurants in Dane County normally bring in over $1 billion in revenue. Much of that is tied to athletic events, as well as conferences, festivals and large events that are now canceled due to fear of spreading the Coronavirus.

“At this point now, we’re kind of taking a different direction and preparing for a fall that doesn’t have as many events, if any,” said Lucas Simon-Wambach, General Manager of Sconniebar on Regent Street.

The bar, which sits just blocks from Camp Randall, is trying its best to expand revenue by offering outdoor seating. Simon-Wambach says while the bar is committed to safety, limited capacity has hurt overall revenues.

“Instead of looking to make money, we’re looking to make enough money to be paying our bills and things like that,” he said. “The Badger football season and the fall in general was always kind of our bread and butter.”

Ilstrup says now is the time to support local businesses. He’s says he’s hopeful that while these next months will be tough on Madison businesses, the future of Madison’s businesses will be more inclusive and resilient.

“It’s going to take our community coming together and saying not only that we need to rebuild and restart our city,” he said. “But we need to re-imagine what it looks like.”