In what may be termed as a slam dunk, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague revealed that the Iowa women's basketball program, led by star athlete Caitlin Clark, made monumental contributions to the local and state economy. A comprehensive study in March by Ben Murrey of the Common Sense Institute, aptly titled “Clarkonomics,” highlights an $82.5 million boost — a figure that speaks volumes of the “Caitlin Clark Effect” both on and off the court.

The mayor attributed the remarkable economic impact in part to the skyrocketing attendance at Hawkeye women’s games, an undeniable “Caitlin Clark effect” that has brought an energy to Iowa women’s basketball not seen in decades, Eliot Clough of Rivals tweet.

The numbers from the study are eye-opening. During Clark's tenure, the attendance for the Hawkeyes’ games saw an exponential increase — a staggering 2.8-fold rise during her senior year alone, growing from about 125,000 to 350,000 attendees. This heightened interest in the games meant more than just packed stadiums; it signified a significant uptick in consumer spending and a cascade of economic activity across the state. In fact, out-of-state attendance surged to nearly 15% during her senior year, indicating that Clark's appeal extends well beyond Iowa borders.

Amber Mason Lusson of CSI expressed that Clark's era at Iowa has been more than just inspirational for young athletes — it has been transformative for the economy, uplifting women's sports and amplifying the university's and state’s reputation.

“As my kids say, Caitlin Clark is the GOAT, and CSI’s study proves it,” Lusson said in a release, per Corridor Business Journal. “Her time at Iowa has been more than an inspiration to young athletes. She has generated a tremendous impact on our economy, exponentially enhanced women’s sports and done more to market the university and the state than anyone in recent memory.”

‘Clarkonomics' boosts local, state economies

A signed Caitlin Clark jersey hangs on the wall at Graze Gourmet To Go in Iowa City, Iowa.
© Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Doug Neumann of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Josh Schamberger of Think Iowa City and the Iowa City Area Sports Commission highlighted Clark's role in marketing the state nationally, noting that the financial implications will benefit Iowa for many years to come.

“Caitlin Clark is that once-in-a-generation athlete who captures the hearts and minds of people across the nation, and we have the facts to prove it,”  Neumann said. “She put Iowa in the national spotlight and showcased our state to the world. The economic impact she has driven will pay dividends for Iowa’s future and inspire young athletes for decades to come.”

“We know Caitlin Clark is a phenomenon on the court, but CSI has worked hard to quantify her star power off the court,” Schamberger added. “Her impact on Iowa’s economy has been significant in generating an estimated $82.5 million in increased community and state consumer spending,” said.

Beyond the increase in attendance and direct spending at basketball games, Clark's presence has had a multiplier effect on hotel bookings, restaurant sales and retail purchases. CSI’s economic models, using REMI analysis, conservatively estimate a state GDP boost between $14.4 million to $52.3 million, thanks to the “Clark effect. That is the equivalent of purchasing between 1,418 and 5,176 acres of Iowa cropland, or funding tuition for between 1,306 and 4,767 University of Iowa students this year. Moreover, it could cover the expenses for the University of Iowa’s upcoming hospital and clinic emergency department expansion or the recently inaugurated University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art.

As the excitement of the 2023-24 basketball season fades, the economic ripples of Caitlin Clark’s storied college career are a buzzer-beater for Iowa, proving that sports stars can indeed become economic titans.