Toy stores and jewelers aren’t the only ones doing big business over the Christmas holidays. December brings college football playoff season, which culminates in an ever-expanding series of bowl games, including San Antonio’s Valero Alamo Bowl.

The fan-fueled economy surrounding the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 and the Shamrock Series game between the University of Notre Dame and Army on Nov. 12 generated $85.5 million, according to surveys conducted by SportsEconomics.

Since its inception in 1993, the Alamo Bowl has hosted 35 bowl and neutral site games for a total economic impact of $990 million.

College football is reliably big business, especially for cities that host bowl games. The biggest bowl games, the New Year’s Six, generate an average of $93.7 million, and the  combined 41 post-season bowl games generated $1.5 billion annually in 2014 and 2015.

Even among these heavy hitters, the Alamo Bowl and the Shamrock Series performed particularly well, according to the SportsEconomics surveys.

This is the second time the Valero Alamo Bowl has hosted the Shamrock Series. The 31,800 out-of-town visitors that attended the 2016 event delivered a $35.4 million total economic impact, topping its performance when the Shamrock Series came to San Antonio in 2009.

SportsEconomics attributes this to San Antonio’s overall appeal as a destination. In other words: fans made a vacation out of it.

The matchup between #10 Colorado and #12 Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl delivered a $50.1 million total economic impact for San Antonio. This was the highest ranked matchup the event has seen, and it drew a crowd of 59,851, the fifth highest attendance in bowl history for a game matching two out-of-state teams.

Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay makes a touchdown for Colorado University during the fourth quarter making the score 31-8.
Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay makes a touchdown for Colorado University during the fourth quarter making the score 31-8. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

“These two events with four out-of-state universities drew fans who stayed longer because of the distance they traveled and the tourist amenities San Antonio provides,” said Dr. Daniel A. Rascher, president of SportsEconomics. “The consistency and growth the Valero Alamo Bowl and the Shamrock Series [have] shown in terms of economic impact is remarkable and rare.”

The SportsEconomics studies determined that out-of-state visitors stayed an average of 3.2 days for the Valero Alamo Bowl and 3.6 days for the Shamrock Series. While they stayed, fans ate in restaurants, toured the city, and shopped.

“Like the bowl game, the Shamrock Series lifted hotel occupancy rates downtown above 90% for the holiday weekend. The event also delivered an impressive 40% year-over-year increase in revenue from rate and occupancy,” said Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit San Antonio.

The survey also reveals another key to college bowl game success: the fans likely have more disposable income than the average American. Both games delivered fans with average household incomes in excess of $110,000.

It’s a spend-money-to-make-money proposition, and the Valero Alamo Bowl has seen it pay off. Higher ranked teams are more expensive to host, but the excitement they generate translates into bigger crowds of money-spending fans. In 2017 the organization will pay the Big 12 and PAC-12 conferences more than $8 million to ensure that both conferences provide their top teams not included in the college football playoffs (CFP).

“Higher ranked teams require larger financial commitments,” Valero Alamo Bowl President and CEO Derrick Fox said. “However, three straight years of Top 15 match-ups have been worth the greater recognition, tourism, and economic benefits to our city. The success of our two events along with last year’s extensions of our ESPN, Big 12, and Pac-12 conference agreements through 2025 will also allow us to increase our local community outreach.”

That local outreach comes in the form of two scholarship programs. For the 2016-17 school year 125 students will receive scholarships through the Valero Alamo Bowl Student-Athlete program and the Alamo Bowl Community Partners program. This number more than doubles the previous year’s record of 58 scholarships.

Already the Valero Alamo Bowl Student-Athlete program has awarded scholarships to at least one graduating high senior from every San Antonio area public school and established private school. Winners received a minimum award of $7,500 to attend the college of their choice. The 76 recipients represented 65 schools and awards totaled nearly $600,000.

Valero Alamo Bowl Community Partners scholarships will be announced this spring when the organization kicks off its 25th anniversary celebration. These scholarships will benefit more than 50 juniors and seniors across San Antonio’s six four-year universities. Funded by the Valero Alamo Bowl and matching programs through each university, the program will award a total of $400,000 in scholarships.

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.