Hoopfest’s Social Media Ambassadors

This year, Hoopfest features a new online presence with two social media ambassadors. They seem to be everywhere at Hoopfest ūüôā

Erica is a recent WSU advertising graduate who now works in Los Angeles.  Amanda is a recent Ohio State economics graduate and is working in Colorado. She is known locally for her participation in the 2012 Olympics in the sharp shooting competition.

Both are accomplished young people and worthy of our admiration. But both left Spokane. Outsourcing our local promotional efforts to ex-residents who now live out of state might not be sending the right message!

Why do so many accomplished young people leave town for better opportunities?

University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge

Cost is presently estimated at $14 to $16 million (the $16 m is in a document I received in email) for the University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge. ¬†Three years ago, promoters sold this project saying the “bridge may cost up to $8 million” – but carefully leaving out the other associated expenses.

In three years, the price tag has doubled. 

Similar pedestrian bridges elsewhere cost in the $1/2 million to $4 million range.

To give that price context here are the costs of other bridges:

  • Replacement of the older half of the 339 foot Argonne Road Bridge over the Spokane River – $6 million (in 2004).
  • Rebuilding the Barker Road Bridge –$11.8 million
  • Replacing the west half of the Sullivan Road double wide automobile bridge spanning the Spokane River –¬†$19.7 million.
  • Cost of temporary Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge replacement – $15.6 million.

Does $16 million seem appropriate for a pedestrian/bike bridge that will have diminished use in the coldest months of the year?

Update: As someone who likes to ride a bike, I support the concept. But a bike bridge costing $16 million, more than most automobile bridges in the area, is not supportable.

Update: Proponents defend the bridge expense by arguing its not just a bridge – its a $16 million municipal art project¬†creating an icon that will make Spokane nationally and even globally famous. Students will choose to attend WSU-Spokane because of the bridge, they argue. It’s not just a bike bridge, its not just an art project, its a marketing program! Gag. See the comments to this for additional information.

Update July 9: There is a popular meme that the University District has a fast growing student population. However, the data that is available shows the combined student enrollment at GU and WSU-Spokane is flat to slightly downwards over the prior five years. This claim of a fast growing group of students is not true.

Hoopfest economic impact

Promoters say 250,000 people will bring $38 million to Spokane:¬†Hoopnomics: Hoopfest’s multi-million dollar impact on Spokane | Spokane/E. WA – KXLY.com.

Where did the 250,000 estimate come from? A survey done in 2006.  Information on the survey is not available but some background information was referenced in a book, a portion of which is indexed by Google.

38 million divided by 250,000 is $152 per person being spent. The organizers assume half (125,000) are from out of town based on the 2006 survey. The survey did not distinguish between this estimated spending and spending that would have happened anyway:

The study did not account for the economic activities that may or may not have taken place in the absence of Hoopfest.

What that means: if a local participant spent some money on Hoopfest weekend, it is money they likely would have spent on something else. We end up with a transfer of spending from say, the Valley Mall or a movie theater, to a restaurant downtown. The overall impact to the local area is unchanged. Spending was shifted from beneficiaries in Spokane Valley to downtown Spokane. The net economic impact is zero.

There are also non-economic impacts including having fun and community pride in hosting a large event.

Here is a comparison to Bloomsday – the majority of Bloomsday participants are local or regional. Obviously, both events have economic benefits but the benefits are likely less than the headline numbers presented by promoters and unquestionably repeated by the media.


Spokane auto theft rate ranks 9th in the nation

Update: For 2014, Spokane is up to 6th place in the nation for auto thefts.

Spokane ranks 9th in the nation in 2012 for auto thefts, which is an improvement over some recent years: Yakima, Spokane among Top 10 cities for stolen vehicles | Q13 FOX News.

Spokane was at #35 in 2008, #18 in 2009, #4 in 2010 and 2011 and #9 in 2012 and remains in 2nd place in the state for stolen vehicles.



Spokane Hoopfest Numbers

As seen in the TweetOsphere the reports range from 7,000 players to 27,500 players, and total fans range from 10,000 to 225,000.

As no one actually counts the number of fans, that is perhaps a wishful estimate. But,  I can personally vouch there are a whole lot of people at Hoopfest! The streets will be crowded! Enjoy the great weekend!


The award for being the most wrong goes to KXLY – see the last tweet below:












And our Award Winning Tweet of the Day forecasts 7000 players – guess that’s why they tagged it #FunFacts instead of say, #FunNonsense!


Spokane Airport Operations

Data through April 2013, with the trend extended to end of 2013. This trend line is extended to the end of the year because the chart shows annual totals – therefore 2013 must be estimated.


2013Apr-FeltsFieldWe look at airport passenger data as a rough proxy for the state of the local economy. The data is not a reflection on the airport management or staff (the airport is well run).

Spokane Employment Update for May 2013

The official unemployment rate is 7.8% and the actual number of jobs has risen in May. Employment in Spokane tends to peak twice each year – once in May or June and then again in about October or November.



Government and health care workers now account for 39% of the wage income in the area. This combination increased by about 1/2 percentage point every year.

Together with the third and fourth categories (retail, and then accommodations and food services), these 4 categories account for 50% of earned income. The 3rd and 4th categories are dominated by low wage, low skilled, part time jobs. When these two are added together, they are the largest industry sector in Spokane.

Together, these three sectors – government, health care, retail/food/hotels – account for just about half of the jobs in Spokane County.

I have rotated the chart into a vertical orientation to make it easier to see the relative sizes of the industry categories. From this ¬†you can see that Spokane’s economy is overwhelmingly dominated by health care, government and retail/hotels/food service and is not diversified. Government is also larger than it appears because much government work is outsourced to private contractors who work solely on government contracts. But this latter group is not counted as government workers.