Canceled, modified Dublin events expected to weigh on city's coffers

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
Emily Fu (right) of Columbus and Peyton Smith of Dublin read wishes left by guests on the Irish wishing tree during last year's Dublin Irish Festival at Coffman Park in Dublin. The annual festival drew more than 100,000 people. This year's festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Two of Dublin's signature events were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and city officials say they are unsure -- at least for now -- what the long-term economic blow to the city could be.

In May, Dublin officials canceled the Dublin Irish Festival.

The Memorial Tournament, a PGA event that attracts the world's best golfers and fans from around the globe, was held July 16 to 19 with no spectators.

Last year, the Irish Festival drew 100,500 guests to Dublin Coffman Park, according to the 2019 annual report for the event.

Those guests annually descending on Dublin bringing spending power, as well.

According to a city release, an economic-impact study of the 2018 Dublin Irish Festival showed it pumped $8.5 million into central Ohio that year, up 2.4% from 2013 -- the last time an economic-impact study of the festival was conducted. That figure comes mainly from spending by out-of-town visitors, city officials said.

The festival primarily is funded through revenue from Dublin's hotel-motel tax.

According to the release, survey results showed out-of-town visitors spent $1.3 million on accommodations.

Dublin events administrator Mary Jo DiSalvo said the city conducts an economic- impact survey for the Irish Festival every five years.

Everyone remains uncertain of what this year's cancellation will mean in the long term, DiSalvo said.

When asked what economic impact the cancellation of the Irish Festival and the lack of spectators at the Memorial Tournament might have on the city, Scott Dring, executive director of the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he did not have any information.

Dring said the health and safety of Dublin's residents and visitors remains the top priority.

"We're doing many things to help our local economy, including encouraging take-out at restaurants and staycations for residents at Dublin hotels," he said.

The city also is working on virtual activities for the July 31 through Aug. 2 weekend the 2020 Irish Festival would have been held, DiSalvo said.

The city plans to stream concerts by favorite festival participants at dublinirishfestival.org, and share stories about the festival from behind the scenes. Other online activities will be available, as well.

The annual 5K run will be conducted virtually this summer, with participants running, jogging or walking their 3.1 miles anytime between July 31 and Aug. 2.

The city has set up a TikTok dance challenge for those brave enough to showcase their Irish-dancing skills.

Tom Sprouse, director of communications for the Memorial Tournament, did not respond to a ThisWeek Dublin Villager request for comment about the economic impact this year's lack of a gallery might have on the city.

Sue Burness, Dublin director of communications and public information, said the city doesn't conduct an economic-impact study for the tournament.

"It is hard to compare this year with prior years," she said.

"Even if the Memorial had fans -- which was planned until the week before -- the impact to local and regional businesses would have been very different with only 20% of ticket sales and restaurants at reduced capacity."

The limit that would have been placed on ticket sales and the numbers of of diners in restaurants would have been because of the COVID-19 pandemic

In a New York Times article about this year's Memorial Tournament, executive director Dan Sullivan said in normal years the Memorial injects $35 million to $40 million into the local economy, according to the most recent economic study from 10 years ago.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah