The Arts & Sports: Apples & Oranges

Generally, we prefer not to focus too much attention on the arts vs. sports debate because it is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The largest difference between the two is that sports teams are for-profit endeavors, whose activities benefit private investors while our arts and cultural institutions are nonprofits whose activities and revenues benefit the public only.

Our communities benefit from both the presence of the arts and the presence of the sports, and while we don’t work with the sports people on our issues, we haven’t staked out positions in opposition to them either. While we have gathered a great deal of statistical information about Minnesota’s cultural community, we do not have a great deal of statistics about sports in Minnesota.

With this in mind, here is some general information:

Total 2005 Professional Sports Attendance in Minnesota: 4,610,201

Lynx – 113,447
Twins – 2,034,243
Wild – 815,806
Vikings – 639,748
Timberwolves – 723,071
Saints – 283,886

Total 2005 Nonprofit Arts and Culture Attendance in Minnesota: 14,487,592

(Source: “The Arts: A Driving Force in Minnesota’s Economy”, 2006).

Our communities benefit from the presence of both the arts and sports. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, American consumers spent more than $10 billion on admissions to performing arts events in 1997. Moreover, 1997 spending on performing events was roughly 1.6 times larger than spending on either admissions to movies or spectator sports.

American consumers have increased their spending on performing arts events by almost $2 billion, or 26%, since 1992. By contrast, admission receipts for movies and spectator sports have showed little change in the same period. Per capita spending on performing arts amounts to approximately $39 compared with $24 per person on movie admissions and $23 for spectator sports.
Another survey by the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that while 50% of U.S. adults had attended a live arts event in 1997, only 41% had attended a live sporting event.

In fact, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota State Arts Board, almost 9 million people attended nonprofit arts events in Minnesota, outnumbering the people who attended sports events in Minnesota in 1998. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on January 17, 1999 that, in fiscal year 1998, Minnesota’s five biggest museums alone (the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota History Center, Children’s Museum and Science Museum) had a higher combined attendance than the three local professional sports teams combined (Vikings, Twins and Timberwolves). Using sports attendance figures from this same article, it is easy to find that the combined attendance of the three professional sports teams in FY1998 (2.6 million) was only a third of the attendance at nonprofit arts events in the same year, 8.8 million.

From Ely to Worthington, communities are brought together through the arts. Over the past two years, five million people in greater Minnesota attended arts events made possible by nearly 1,500 Regional Arts Council grants. The impressive cultural resources of Minneapolis and St. Paul bring people into the urban core, keeping it alive, vibrant and relevant to people living both in and out of the Twin Cities area. Minnesota was recently named the “Most Livable State in the Nation”, partly on the strength of its support of the arts (Morgan Quitno Press, 1998).