The NASCAR race that transformed the streets of downtown Chicago into a racetrack during the 4th of July weekend, cutting off public access to much of Grant Park for weeks, added $109 million to Chicago’s economy, according to a new study released Wednesday by Chicago’s tourism board.
The results of the study conducted by Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Center represent “a conservative estimate” that could have a significant impact on Mayor Brandon Johnson’s decision whether to welcome the NASCAR race back to Chicago in 2024 and 2025.
“The impact of the NASCAR Chicago Street Race went beyond direct economic impact,” according to a statement from Choose Chicago, which is funded by the city’s hotel taxes. “Millions of people from around the world were tuned into Chicago before, during and after the race.”
The race generated an additional $23.6 million of “media value” for Chicago, representing “significant positive impact on Chicago thanks to spending from attendees, corporate spending and positive media publicity for the city of Chicago generated by the first-of-its-kinds race,” according to the statement.
The study analyzed the impact of those who traveled to Chicago solely or primarily for the race, and excludes spending by nearly 3,000 visitors to Chicago who indicated that other attractions were equally or more important than attending the race in their decision to travel to the city. Those attendees contributed an additional $7.6 million to Chicago’s economy, according to the report.
The NASCAR Chicago Street Race created 750 jobs and generated $8.3 million in local and state taxes, and attracted 47,405 visitors, most of whom traveled from outside the city to attend the race. These attendees spent $684 per day, $200 more than the typical domestic traveler did last year, according to the report.
The event generated 29,532 total hotel room nights, including non-local attendees and rooms for NASCAR teams, staff and vendors, according to the report.
By comparison, Taylor Swift’s Chicago concerts in June booked 44,000 hotel rooms for two consecutive nights, setting an all-time record. That meant 97% of all downtown hotel rooms were booked. When Beyoncé Knowles-Carter played Chicago in late July, 95% of all downtown Chicago hotel rooms were booked, based on an analysis by CoStar, a real estate information firm.
The report makes the NASCAR Chicago Street Race “the second most impactful” event organized by Choose Chicago’s Chicago Sports Commission, behind only the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, according to the report.
The race disrupted by a massive rainstorm that caused a federally recognized disaster centered on Chicago’s West Side and canceled most of the events off the track — including concerts by the Chainsmokers and Miranda Lambert — and shortened both the Xfinity Series race and the Cup Series race.
By comparison, Lollapalooza generated four times more impact on Chicago’s economy, according to a report released by C3 Presents, the promoter of the concert that has called Chicago home since 2005. That report conducted by Texas-based research group AngelouEconomics pegged the economic impact of Lollapalooza at $422 million.
That set a record for Lollapalooza, and won plaudits from Johnson.
A spokesperson for NASCAR could not immediately be reached for comment by WTTW News.
Shortly after the release of the economic impact report, Johnson's office announced NASCAR would return to Chicago in 2024 on July 6-7.
NASCAR and the Chicago Park District, whose leaders are appointed by Johnson, could have terminated the agreement without a penalty before the end of December.
NASCAR can cancel the event by the end of March, but would have to pay the Chicago Park District a $250,000 termination fee, according to the agreement.
In 2024 NASCAR will pay the city a $550,000 permit fee, up from $500,000 this year, according to the contract. In addition, NASCAR will once again pay the Park District a $2 fee per admission ticket, and a 15% commission on food, beverage and merchandise sales at the event.
Chicago Park District officials have yet to release any data, despite a request from WTTW News, about how much money the park district earned from those sales.
The city spent at least $3.25 million on overtime for police officers assigned to the race and to repair city roadways damaged by the event, according to a preliminary analysis by the South Side Weekly.