The inaugural Steel Horse Rally held in downtown Fort Smith in early May was attended by an estimated 25,000 people and resulted in a regional economic impact of $4.272 million, according to a report from the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Held May 1-2 in downtown Fort Smith, the rally was attended by around 10,000 bikers, according to estimates at the time from the Fort Smith Police Department. Riders came from more than 15 states, including the northeastern tip of Maine, Idaho and Ohio. At least one biker was from Canada, and were hosted by more than 200 volunteers organized by Karen and Dennis Snow, secretary and president, respectively, of Steel Horse Rally Inc.
The event was geared toward honoring members of the military, veterans, police and firefighters and first responders. The rally also providing funding to local charities including the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, The Arkansas Veterans Home, The Fort Smith Museum of History and the Darby Legacy Project.
Formulating the economic impact was helped by previous work done to estimate the impact of Bikes, Blues & BBQ held in Northwest Arkansas.
“Much of the analysis for this report is based upon similar assumptions utilized by the Center for Business and Economic Research from the Sam M. Walton College of business at the University of Arkansas, released in January of 2014 regarding the Bikes, Blues & BBQ (BBB) Rally in Northwest AR in 2013,” Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, noted in the report. “The festival was kind enough to provide Steel Horse Rally a copy so that we could learn from their research techniques in that Motorcycle Rallies are a unique form of tourism.”
Legris said he worked with Steel Horse rally officials to incorporate information from hotel activity, the Fort Smith Police Department and other attendance estimates. The goal, according to Legris, was to develop a “conservative figure” of the impact and avoid risking an impact exaggeration.
The impact is based on three groups of attendees: those from Fort Smith; people from the region who traveled into Fort Smith for the day; and those who live outside the area and stayed in regional hotels.
Following are key results of the economic impact report.
• The total economic impact was $4,272,926.
• There were an estimated 1,650 overnight (hotel) attendees, 12,675 day-trip attendees, and 10,175 attendees from Fort Smith.
• Local tax revenue generated from the economic impact is estimated at $99,812, and the estimate of state sales tax collection is $168,194.
• Financial estimates for both “overnight” and “day trip” attendees were generated by the web based nationally recognized impact calculator utilized by the Bureau through the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI). Local expenditures are estimated at $100 per attendee.
• There is a nominal economic impact multiplier utilized in DMAI figures for “direct” and “induced” impact “new” dollars into the community. Many utilize a multiplier factor of anywhere from 3 to 5 times. However, Legris said the Steel Horse impact number does not include a multiplier.
“We wanted this to be as direct, as straightforward as we could get it,” Legris said.
• The report represents estimates to the entire Fort Smith metro area, much as the BBB estimate is considered a Northwest Arkansas report.
Snow said he was pleasantly surprised by the event turnout, but was not surprised by the impact number.
“I’m happy with our impact for our first year. We set the bar much higher than anticipated, but we look for the event to grow by leaps and bounds and be a big boost for the community,” Snow said.
The second annual Steel Horse Rally is set for April 29-30, and will include participation with the Darby Legacy Project to unveil a statue of Gen. William Darby in Cisterna Plaza in downtown Fort Smith.
“We’re very excited about the unveiling of the Darby statute on Saturday, and we have several other military salutes in the works,” Snow said.
(Michael Tilley, a co-owner of The City Wire, is on the Steel Horse Rally Board of Directors.)