KY Derby Festival economic impact nearly $128 million

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It's the two-week party leading up to the two-minute horse race.

Rain and wet weather may have dampened attendance during last year's Kentucky Derby Festival. It wasn't the best year on record. However, that's not an indication of the economic impact.

Overall, our community is taking in more money than ever during the 2-weeks that encompasses 70 events.

Members of University of Louisville's MBA program just completed an economic impact study. Researchers found the estimated economic impact of the Kentucky Derby Festival is $127.9 million.

"For every dollar spent by the festival and introducing this event, 22 dollars is generated for the community," Mike Berry said, KY Derby Festival President.

MBA researchers didn't just pick up the phone. One of the study's author's, Will Donaldson, said his team dropped by every event and surveyed people in person. He and other board members spoke during a breakfast presentation to community leaders and sponsors.

"The purpose of it is really for the festival to always evaluate their stance in the community. They did the last one 10 years ago and found they had impacted about $96 million," Donaldson said.

The most recent $128 million-dollar figure is a 36% increase over the study completed in 2001.

The 2011 KY Derby Festival didn't didn't break attendance records, so the study examined the past five years and averaged their expenses.

One in ten attendees isn't even from the region - they're tourists, according to the study. It also indicated that spectators who take part in one derby festival, attend two others as well.

"It tells us how many heads and beds if you will. Every retailer. Or every shoe we purchased. Every time we go out into a restaurant. That information is vital to growing this festival," said Wendy Jacob, 2012 Chair.

Board members say financing the study didn't impact its bottom line.

"We made a gift to their foundation. There was no hard dollar cost. We certainly made a gift back to their organization because it's a big deal," Jacob said.

The largest economic impact for a single Derby Festival event is Thunder Over Louisville, contributing $56.6 into the local economy.