Chicago is famous for its professional sports teams, including the Bears, Blackhawks and the Bulls, but another team is even more essential in driving the city to economic victory, according to a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by the Chicago Loop Alliance.

The study, released April 11 during a press conference at the Gene Siskel Film Center, reveals that arts and culture in the city’s Loop have an annual economic impact of $2.25 billion.

“The Chicago Loop Alliance is dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the Loop, and part of that is facilitating research that brings about a better understanding of what makes the Loop tick,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards.

Data analyzed in the report came from arts institutions themselves, as well as more than 12,000 online surveys completed by Loop visitors. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association is among the arts groups participating in the study, along with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Auditorium Theater Council, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Goodman Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and Lyric Opera of Chicago. The study covered 72 arts institutions, 120 public art pieces and more than 50 architecturally significant buildings in the Loop.

Alluding to federal and state cutbacks in funding, Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theatre, said, “Arts and culture are not a luxury. They’re the fabric of our civic life. This study proves that not only can we afford the arts, we need the arts.”

Among the report’s major findings:

Employment: The arts are responsible for 15,500 full-time jobs annually in the Loop.

Visitation: The arts draw 28.4 million patrons annually to the Loop.

Ticket sales: Loop arts groups attract 7.4 million ticketed visitors per year — a total that exceeds more than all Chicago sports teams combined.

The $2.25 billion in annual economic impact of Loop arts and culture includes $113.5 million in Loop restaurant revenue, $81.3 million in Loop real estate revenue, $78 million in Loop hotel revenue, $63 million in Loop retail sales, $43 million in transportation and parking revenue and $40 million in tax revenue ($34 million for the State of Illinois and $6 million for the City of Chicago).

The study notes that a typical visitor comes to the Loop 12 times a year specifically for the arts, making 2.2 arts destinations per trip. Loop arts attendees are more diverse than the national average, and Chicago-based attendees are decidedly younger than visitors from outside the city.

Through the study’s findings, Edwards said, arts organizations will be better equipped to grow their support and to understand the behavior of their patrons.

“We’ve been able to show with hard numbers that arts and culture play a huge role in the economy, and based on thousands of heartfelt survey responses, they also represent the soul of the city of Chicago to both residents and visitors alike,” Edwards said. “We believe the information in the study will be used by arts, tourism and economic development organizations to strengthen their operations, which will ultimately strengthen the Loop as a whole.”

Chicago Loop Alliance’s Arts in the Loop Economic Impact Study was conducted by HR&A Advisors Inc. and ArtsMarket Inc. Established in 2005, the Chicago Loop Alliance creates, manages and promotes “high-performing urban experiences” that attract visitors and investment to the Loop. To read the complete report, go to