JDC adds $70.9M to economy, helps drive QC regional growth

The John Deere Classic delivered an eye-popping $70.9 million in direct and indirect impact to the Quad Cities in 2023, according to a new study based on data analyzed by Deere economists and collected from the John Deere Classic and Visit Quad Cities.

And as impressive as that number is, it doesn’t reflect the hard-to-quantify value the JDC adds every year to the Quad Cities brand, the region’s quality of life and as an economic development engine for the Quad Cities, local leaders told the QCBJ in the runup to the July 1-7, 2024, local PGA Tour event.

The 2023 study’s findings are impressive on their own and they outpace the previous economic impact totals contained in a nine-year-old study by John Deere. That 2015 effort put the PGA Tour’s annual direct and indirect economic impact at $54 million. Since then, JDC Tournament Director Andrew Lehman said that figure has been used to measure the JDC’s success.

JDC Tournament Director Andrew Lehman

The record-breaking 2023 JDC was a good time to undertake the effort to update that report  because, he said it shares key features with what then was a record-breaking 2015 JDC. “If you remember in 2015, we had Bill Murray here for the Wednesday Pro-Am,” Mr. Lehman said. “Jordan Speith was here. Ranked No. 2 in the world, he had won the Masters and won the U.S. Open.”

Fast forward to 2023 when attendance exploded again thanks to then-Iowa Hawkeye basketball phenom Caitlin Clark’s playing in the Pro-Am and the JDC’s new wildly popular Concerts on the Course starring Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker. 

There also were some important differences between the economic impact studies. The 2015 report, by necessity, was based on assumptions because at the time there was no easy way to track realtime attendance figures. 

More modern technology made it easier to do so in 2023. The 2023 study also provided a clearer view of the tournament’s community impact because, unlike the 2015 study, this one included the 2023 Birdies for Charity investment. 

Those numbers should be part of the total, Mr. Lehman said because “that money is out in the community” impacting charities and doing good. When the 2015 Birdies investments are included, that 2015 impact climbs to $63 million. 

That new total is impressive, but still was easily eclipsed by 2023’s $70.9 million economic value. In all, that total includes: $23.1 million in direct impact in the bistate region; $33.7 million in indirect impact; and that year’s $14.1 million in Birdies for Charities investment in nonprofits. 

“For us at John Deere, the Classic is an opportunity to showcase our brand and our hometown on a global scale,” Mara Downing, John Deere’s vice president of Global Brand and Communications and president of the John Deere Foundation, told the QCBJ. “It provides an opportunity to build community spirit and bring substantial charitable and economic impact to the area.”

She added: “Since the Classic’s founding in 1971, the tournament has helped raise $173.6 million for charity, with more than 99% of this total generated since John Deere became the title sponsor in 1998. It’s an honor to be part of an event that elevates the Quad Cities and demonstrates the unwavering dedication and generosity of our community members.”

In helping provide Deere data to quantify that impact for 2023, Visit Quad Cities President & CEO Dave Herrell said his organization used the Tourism Economics and Destinations International’s Event Impact Calculator (EIC) and information collected by Datafy. It’s a geolocation tool that uses cell phone data, vehicle and credit card data to track demographics, visitor behavior, and visitor spending. Visit also used information from Smith Travel Research (STR, Inc.) weekly reports. 

Much of the information contained in the latest study is proprietary but the Visit QC leader did share the following year-over-year information collected from 75 hotel properties representing 6,500 hotel rooms in the Quad Cities metropolitan area in 2023:

  •  Hotel occupancy was up 10.1%.
  •  Average Daily Hotel Rate was up 16.1%.
  •  Revenue per room was up 28%.
  •  Overall hotel revenue was up 29%.

In addition to the numbers, local leaders say, there also are critical intangibles that the tournament brings. They include the community pride that comes from being one of the smallest markets in the nation to host a PGA Tour event and the JDC’s perennial designation as the Most Engaged Community on the tour.

To understand the tournament’s direct and indirect impact, consider what it would be like if the JDC no longer existed, Mr. Lehman said, particularly for nonprofits for whom Birdies is a significant investment in their annual budget. 

Peter Tokar III will be the next president and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, beginning mid-January 2024, the organization announced on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Peter Tokar III president and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. CREDIT QC CHAMBER

Then there is what the tournament does for the Quad Cities brand. Quad Cities Chamber President and CEO Peter Tokar is still relatively new to the region but he quickly understood the value of a tournament that his father, an avid golfer, has been watching on television for years.

“It’s definitely a recognizable event and really a competitive advantage for the Quad Cities to have a professional PGA tournament. And to know that it’s seen here for over 45 years is really incredible,” he told the QCBJ.

He also knows how hard it is to win and keep a PGA event. While working in McKinney, Texas, he was part of the effort that successfully lobbied to get the PGA’s Byron Nelson tournament relocated there from Dallas. “It is very challenging to get a PGA tournament in a community just because of how competitive they are, and let alone one that is recognized as well as the JDC,” Mr. Tokar said. “There’s tons of PGA events that happen all around the country and some of them you’ve never heard of but there are certain tournaments that rise to the top and this (JDC) is certainly one of the most recognized ones on tour.”

He added, “That alone brings recognition to the community and gives us, again, a competitive advantage for these types of things.”

In addition, he said, “One of the benefits of having a PGA tournament in our community from an economic development perspective is that it does bring that investment to your community. It brings outside tourism in, which imports dollars to help support our local businesses. It brings exposure via press, via media coverage of the area that the tournament is in.”

Mr. Herrell called the JDC  a “leverageable asset” to help developers promote the Quad Cities.

“You know, major events have the ability to do that and when you can host some in your backyard – whether they are annual events or things that might be one-offs that you recruit – having that real strong and vibrant event portfolio is just critical to how you want to market, promote, position, advertise your brand,” he said.

“And so where we like this particular property is certainly that $70 million economic impact and the billion people that this event reaches through the telecast. And having a relationship with the PGA tour I think is unbelievably important to our community.”

He likened it to having an NFL franchise in your backyard. “That relationship with the tour being a global enterprise is something that we can’t take for granted.”

Quad Cities businesses also benefit because they use the JDC “as a chance to fortify business relationships and they’re doing that in hospitality settings that is at a high standard and a marquee event,” Mr. Herrell added.

Visit Quad Cities and others also use those events to market the region. For example, Mr. Herrell said, a few years ago Visit Quad Cities partnered with the Quad Cities International Airport to bring executives from American Airlines to the community to try to “drive more value for our airlift.” He said “By fortifying some of those relations, we used it as a catalyst to get American to do the Charlotte (North Carolina) flight.”

He added, “We’re constantly thinking through ways that we can use it to hopefully bring about more economic development opportunities for the region and use it as this showcase for our quality of life and quality of place, “ he said.  

John Deere Classic – If you go 

When & where: July 1-7 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.

Who: The field for the 53rd annual John Deere Classic, the local PGA Tour stop, includes 11 of the top 50-ranked pro golfers in the world competing for $7.4 million in prize money.

TV: Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., Thursday’s and Friday’s first two rounds. Golf Channel, noon-1:30 p.m., Saturday’s and Sunday’s final two rounds. CBS, 2-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Special events: “Concerts on the Course” welcomes alternative rock icons Counting Crows and country music star Lainey Wilson. Both are included in the weekend ticket prices. Iowa born-and-bred NBA standout Keegan Murray is the special guest Wednesday, July 3, for the Pro-Am and Youth Day Clinic.

Tickets: All options are digital and available only online. Free parking is included.  https://johndeereclassic.com/spectators/ticket-options.

Hospitality packages: Among the special options available online are sponsored tables, the courtyard at the 18th hole and “Cocktails on the Course.” 

Special deals: All youth age 15 and under receive free Grounds access all week with a paid adult. … The Kids Club offers special promotions at johndeereclassic.com/spectators/kids-club. 


There are free tickets available from the JDC’s military appreciation program at jdclassic.spinzo.com/?group=military-wqhf and find a program geared for first responders at jdclassic.spinzo.com/?group=first-responders-3zu4.


Get the free QCBJ email newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the people, companies and issues that impact business in the  Quad Cities area.