NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game to score Raleigh millions in visitor spending

Preparations are underway to convert Carter-Finley Stadium into an NHL hockey rink for a Carolina Hurricanes 2023 Stadium Series Game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 18. (Travis Long/tlong@newsobserver.com)

The 2023 NHL Stadium Series game at Carter-Finley Stadium is more than a unique opportunity for Carolina Hurricanes fans.

The outdoor hockey game has the potential to create millions in economic impact and focus an international lens on Raleigh.

“I’ve been doing this job a long time, working with a lot of big events in Raleigh,” said Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. “I have never seen an event generate this much anticipation and excitement and conversation this far out. Since last summer, the build-up for this game has been non-stop and it’s just been building and building and now we’re on the doorstep.”

The Stadium Series game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 18 is expected to generate nearly $12.4 million in economic impact based on the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau analysis of preliminary ticket sales.

Of the tickets sold, nearly 28,000 were bought by people in Wake County ZIP codes. The economic impact analysis doesn’t include spending by Wake County residents and, instead, tracks new money in the local economy.

The rest of the tickets have been bought by people who will be traveling from outside Wake County to the area for the game, and that is how the visitors bureau is determining the potential economic impact.

Hootie & the Blowfish concert

The preliminary report only focuses on the Stadium Series game and not the pre- and post-game events. The visitors bureau will also look at the economic impact of the Hall of Fame game on Thursday, the Hootie & the Blowfish concert at PNC Arena, the N.C. State vs North Carolina basketball game and the Carolina Hurricanes Fan Fest.

The economic impact of the ticket events will be calculated in a similar way as the Stadium Series game is, but the free, non-ticketed Fan Fest will require on-the-ground analysis.

“It’s a little bit tricky because it’s a free event,” said Loren Gold, executive vice president of the visitors bureau.. “But it will be very, very similar to how we’ve calculated the Bluegrass festival.”

The visitors bureau will use volunteers to interview people attending the fan festival to find out if they are local or traveling from outside the Triangle.

Philip Isley, a former Raleigh City Council member, is chair of the Centennial Authority. That authority was created by the state government for the ownership and management of PNC Arena, the Canes’ regular home venue.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have another Stadium Series in my lifetime as a chairman, or at least a member of the centennial authority,” he said. “I think this is going to overperform compared to what people think, with respect to who shows up and how well it’s received.

“And it’ll be cool,” he continued. “Because I do think that no one believed that we would sell as many tickets as we did initially. And people have sort of underestimated us. And so I always love being underestimated and then outperforming what people think. And I think we’re sort of in that realm right now.”

Stanley Cup finals

The Stadium Series game isn’t the only significant NHL event the city has hosted since the Canes moved here in 1997.

Raleigh hosted the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002 and in 2006, the year the Canes won the championship title. The city also hosted the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and, most recently, the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend.

There was skepticism by hockey observers and national media about the league’s decision to bring the All-Star Weekend to “Mayberry.”

“That was the weekend, in my opinion, that changed lots of perceptions nationally, and in Canada, that Raleigh, not only can host this event, but can really blow the doors off and host it well,” Dupree said.

The visitors bureau reported the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend generated $11.4 million in direct visitor spending in Raleigh and Wake County and $49 million in “media value” for the area.

And only two cities, he said, have held all these NHL events: Los Angeles and now Raleigh.

“In the last five years, the Canes have sort of blown up in terms of winning and attendance,” Dupree said. “And the tickets have never been hotter. The interest has never been higher. The enthusiasm has never been higher. The NHL world sees that. And now with the outdoor game coming, it’s sort of like the cherry on top of this wave of momentum that the Canes have built over the last five years.”

The economic impact of the game will be huge, said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, but it also puts the city on the international stage.

“People throughout the world will be watching and journalists from around the world will be covering it,” she said. “Having worked for the Canes in 2000-2002 when we went to the Stanley Cup finals, I know first hand what type of coverage this produces and the positive impacts. Our region will be showcased and stories about our celebration will be highlighted.”