It happened. The Chicago Cubs — a team supposedly cursed for over a hundred years by a spurned man and his now infamous pet goat — did what many believe wasn’t possible this week.
They won the World Series.
The Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 8-7 after undergoing a gut-wrenching 10-inning ball game to clench the title of MLB World Series Champions. This is an honor the team hasn’t received since 1908, which many blamed on the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat.
And though putting an end to a 108-year championship drought has brought with it much excitement, media attention and disbelief, it’s also delivered big gains in commerce.
The interesting thing is, even with a so-called curse and a disappointing ending to every season since 1908, the Cubs’ loyal fan base has continued to make the team one of the most profitable in all of baseball.
Last year, Forbes reported that the Cubs brought in $50.8 million and even back in 2012 – when the team suffered 101 loses and finished last in the MLB — it was still considered the most profitable team and brought in $32 million.
While the “curse” may have kept the championships from racking up, it didn’t keep the money from rolling in — no one, it seemed, wanted to miss out seeing their beloved team beat the Curse.
So, it’s no surprise that people were willing to cough up the money – and a lot of it – to see and experience their beloved Cubbies take part in the World Series.
Devoted fans quickly pushed ticket prices to insane levels, with listing for game tickets averaging $6,000 in Chicago and $3,300 in Cleveland. Even standing-room bleacher seats at Wrigley Field were going up on StubHub at a starting price of more than $1,500.
Parking around the Wrigleyville neighborhood where the Cubs play cost fans as much as $300.
But ticket prices weren’t the only indication that what the media dubbed “Cubs Fever” was taking over, which was a good thing for anyone hosting an Airbnb during the series of ball games.
Chicago hosts on the home-sharing platform reportedly brought in $2.6 million last weekend when games 3,4 and 5 of the World Series took place in the city. It’s estimated that nearly 9,000 travelers used Chicago Airbnb rentals during that time, a spike that is usually only experienced during Lollapalooza, the city’s annual music festival, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“As with the entire Chicago hospitality industry, summer is booming. People want to be in Chicago in the summer, so Lollapalooza always represented one of the biggest spikes,” Ben Breit, a Chicago-based spokesman for Airbnb, told the Tribune. “It’s pretty rare to see a huge surge of travelers into October, November.”
According to Airbnb statistics, guest arrivals increased 30 to 40 percent from the average weekend in October 2015 and a massive 170 percent over an average October 2014 weekend.
In addition to the significant increase in the total number of guests who booked stays with Airbnb in Chicago, the company noted that prices for those rentals also rose considerably during the World Series games in the city. For that weekend, the median rental rates in Wrigleyville and Lakeview reached $300 per night — nearly three times Chicago’s citywide average.
The Chicago Tribune pointed out that some Wrigleyville residents were even listing their apartments for more than $1,000 per night last week.
Though it’s understandable why such high demand has the power to drive such a high revenue, it’s still somewhat of a surprise considering cities that host the World Series don’t typically see big impacts to their local economy.
Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that while it’s easy to assume hosting big sporting events automatically brings on big economic rewards in a city, many studies on sports economics have proven otherwise.
While there’s no doubt that an event like the World Series generates revenue from things like tourism and increased ticket sales, it’s still a big jump from people spending more money at games to the stimulation of growth in the local economy.
“Postseason appearances are not associated with any change in the level of real per capita income,” wrote sports economists Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys wrote in a 2002 study called “The Economic Impact of Postseason Play in Professional Sports.”
While their research shows that there’s no link between a city hosting the World Series and it experiencing a significant boost to the local economy, that didn’t stop businesses in Chicago from trying.
Airbnb hosts weren’t the only one looking to capitalize on the World Series frenzy and the possibility of the Cubs being able to lift its long-standing curse.
Local bars in Chicago, particularly those located closest to Wrigley Field, jacked up prices as hundreds of thousands of ticketless fans searched for places to watch the game.
Some bars charged patrons as much as $40 to $100 just to get inside during the games, while others offered packages ranging from $200 to $350 that included admission, drinks and food.
“Most of these establishments have the ability to charge cover charges, but they generally have not for Cubs games,” Chicago alderman Tom Tunney told USA Today. “But this is a once-in-a-century opportunity.”
Uber and Lyft also made sure not to let the financial opportunity of the Cubs winning the World Series go by.
The morning after the big win (Nov. 3), both ride-hailing services had surge pricing, with Uber charging 1.5 times the normal price and Lyft’s doubling as of 6:45 a.m., DNAinfo.com reported.
On the flip side, Uber is doing its part to help Cubs fan celebrate by delivering a World Series championship hat or T-shirt ($28 each) to customers who place an order through the app. Users can then expect their championship gear to be delivered in minutes.
According to ChicagoInno, Uber even surprised a select few fans by allowing former Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson to tag along on some rides.
Now that the Curse is broken, we’ll have to wait until next season to see if the fans still come out to cheer on their beloved Cubbies!