Pretend you’ve just signed up for a college course called Archery Econ 101. Let’s say it’s the spring semester and the classroom in the old campus building has crummy air-conditioning, but plenty of windows. They’re all open and there’s a breeze. Imagine the instructor is discussing the positive impact a sport — a silly little hobby — can have on a community’s economy and culture.
Before drilling into the course material, let’s consider what a sport other than archery can do for a town and its retail landscape. We won’t look at major sporting events like the Super Bowl and what it might do for Dallas, or the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and its impact on television networks and host cities. Instead, we’ll examine snow skiing, a sport that doesn’t get regular airtime on ESPN or major networks. Most Americans don’t sit around on Sunday afternoons watching skiers and most would agree snow skiing is a sport somewhat under the radar.
Yet, did you know the ski industry had a $146 million economic impact on North Carolina in 2009-2010? Further, direct spending there was estimated at $88.5 million; this in a state not renowned for snow skiing. It took 671,554 skier visits to the state’s six ski resorts to pump that kind of cash into North Carolina during the 2009-2010 winter. According to the High Country Press, that’s more people than the number attending Carolina Panthers football games in 2009 (586,000). Independent ski pro shops, not counting resort-operated retailers, raked in more than $1.3 million in rentals alone. That doesn’t include sales of ski clothing and gear like hats, masks, board wax, high-end gloves and other outerwear.
Now consider archery and bowhunting. These sports don’t depend on a private venue or a resort, and archers can shoot in a variety of weather conditions. Skiers require snow.
If you’re still pretending you’re in Archery Econ 101, flip the page and grab a clean sheet of paper. Write down these numbers:
1 Month 88.52%
3 Months 142.03%
6 Months 202.09%
12 Months 83.04%
18 Months 85.71%
Each percentage represents the increase of youth equipment sold at Van’s Sporting Goods in Cullman, Ala., in 2009 and 2010. Youth archery sales grew by 88.52 percent for this ATA member one month after Cullman opened a community archery park. With leadership from the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (ADWFF); and designs, funding and equipment from the ATA, Cullman joined several other Alabama cities in adopting archery as a community activity.
“We have a ton of kids shooting now, thanks to the park and school and park and rec programs,” said Ricky Davis of Van’s Sporting Goods. “The results have been unbelievable.” During the first two months of 2011, Van’s sold half the number of youth bows it sold in all of 2010. And sales of youth equipment during the 18 months following the park’s opening increased 80 percent over the 18-month period preceding it.
To appreciate the value and rarity of a business increasing sales 80 percent so quickly, consider two of the hottest stocks on the market: Apple, the maker of iPhones and iPads; and Caterpillar, manufacturer of engines and heavy equipment. In 52 weeks, Apple’s value increased 55 percent, while Caterpillar’s increased 51 percent. Both enjoyed phenomenal and unprecedented growth, yet neither approached 80 percent.
Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO, said the potential impacts of archery programs and facilities on local economies is unmistakable. “It’s like any business investment,” McAninch said. “The object is to increase your customer base. Promoting and contributing to archery and bowhunting programs, and creating facilities that allow communities to share in those programs, is a not just an investment in the sport’s future. It’s a business investment that boosts revenues for stores and the community.”
The Cullman Archery Park became a reality when Cullman, the ADWFF, ATA, local schools, retailers, citizens and avid archers and bowhunters partnered to ignite archery participation and infuse economic growth into their area. You might say it’s what Cullman did for Cullman. But what Cullman did for archery and everybody else could prove greater yet. In Cullman, every city now has a model that can be duplicated. Already, cities across the country in states like Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan and Tennessee are following Cullman’s lead. Meanwhile, the Cullman Archery Park is one of six new archery facilities completed or underway in Alabama.
“The success in this Alabama community shows what can be achieved through strong partnerships between archery retailers, schools, clubs, state agencies, park-and-rec programs, and others,” McAninch said. “The positive economic impacts in cities with archery parks and ranges can be substantial.”
Situated on 17 acres of land that the city of Cullman leases to ADWFF, the archery park is near a city golf course. The location enhances the area’s recreational appeal and gives the archery park great visibility.
“Cullman is the epitome of what a community can accomplish by working with partners and tapping into available resources,” said Michelle Doerr, director of archery and bowhunting programs. “Cullman provides a template for any community looking to offer additional recreational opportunities with little or no cost, while at the same time boosting their economic vitality.”
Cullman’s park features 16 youth and adult targets, a 16-target walking course, and a shooting platform 13 feet high that overlooks four targets.
Peggy Smith, Cullman’s director of economic development, said the archery park has been a great addition to the community. “It has really made a difference in bringing people here from throughout the state and even from outside the state,” she said. “We hear positive comments about (the park) whenever we go to trade shows and conventions. We’re excited and pleased to have it here.”
As sales of youth and adult archery equipment have increased at Van’s, so have the dealer’s contributions to archery in Cullman. Van’s offers discounted equipment for programs, and donates about $1,500 annually to the local Heritage Archery Club for tournaments and sponsorships. The club was created as the park was built in 2008. It started with 10 members. By the time the park opened in April 2009, membership had jumped to 130. That figure recently hit 170.
“The interest in archery in our county has been getting larger over the last several years,” said Shane Cupp, the man credited with organizing the club. “So, with the park in the works, it just made sense to start the club. Plus the organized group gives bowhunters a sense of community.”
By tapping into the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), Explore Bowhunting, Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD), and other programs, Cullman has become a hallmark for what can be accomplished.
“With any project like this, we start by talking to state directors and we pitch the community strategy where all players must be involved,” Doerr said. “After that, state agencies bring in staff. Once staff are in place, they do the legwork and indentify communities.”
The facility is the focal point, and a community is a good candidate if it’s densely populated. It should also have good recreational facilities and infrastructure, high densities of schools within a 25- to 50-mile radius, and the enthusiasm and investment potential to bring archery into the community’s recreational “life.”
To help Cullman, the ATA provided $52,000 for archery equipment costs. And thanks to a $50,000 contribution from the Easton Sports Development Foundation, the city constructed a pavilion and restroom facilities at the park.
Before Cullman’s archery park, Athens, Ala., opened its own park, which had a similar, positive impact on the area’s archery shop. Heith Clark of 12 Ring Archery & Outdoors, another ATA-member retailer, said he’s seen how the archery park boosted equipment sales. And, knowing what he knows now, if he didn’t have an archery park in his community, he’d be fighting for one. “They’d be crazy not to,” Clark said. “Why not want an archery park in your community?”
And when Chad Vining of Athens Park and Rec needs equipment or services, he turns to 12 Ring Archery & Outdoors. “Any questions I have concerning equipment, I go talk to Heith Clark about it,” Vining said.
Alabama’s community archery parks in Dothan and Demopolis officially opened in December 2009 and October 2010, respectively. More recently, work began on a community archery park at the Sam Dale Park near Ozark, Ala.
“Alabama’s ability to pump new shooters into the sport, into ATA-member archery shops, and into the customer base of hunting-license purchasers is critical to this industry’s continued success,” McAninch said. “Alabama has shown the ATA, our industry, and the rest of the country how archery can become part of a community’s fabric. The outcome for the ATA is that many more communities are seeing what can be done. That’s why they’re pursuing their own community programs and facilities.”
Many business trends are so complex that it’s difficult to see direct cause-and-effect relationships. Yet, in the ATA’s community archery strategy, it’s simple Econ 101. While Alabama has demonstrated the value of strong partnerships, it also understood it had a sport that could sell itself. It just needed a nudge. After all, the other ingredients were there: park-and-rec programs, high-energy citizens and avid bowhunters. Once partners found cities willing to build archery parks, Alabama had the catalyst for statewide economic impacts.
Find out how to initiate a community archery effort in your area by contacting Michelle Doerr of the ATA at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (320) 562-2680 or toll free at (866) 266-2776. email@example.com
By Amy Hatfield, ATA Communications Manager