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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Big Bay Boom Brings a Bang to Local Economy

TOURISM: Port of San Diego’s Fireworks Extravaganza Helps Military, County

SAN DIEGO – Even as it supports active members of the U.S. military as a major fundraiser, the annual Big Bay Boom brings explosive economic impact to San Diego County.

Less well known by its full name – the Port of San Diego’s Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show to Benefit the Armed Services YMCA Charity – the event brings at least $74.4 million and as much as $89 million in direct economic impact for the county.

Those numbers backing the popular fireworks show that has taken place every year since 2001 (with the exception of COVID-cancelled 2020) come via a 2022 economic impact assessment by San Diego State University’s L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

The SDSU report said Big Bay Boom’s economic impact is greater than the San Diego Farmers PGA Open Golf Tournament. The golf event had an economic impact of $67.5 million. The report also noted that the one evening of the Big Bay Boom draws 10 times the crowd of the four-day golf tournament, which reportedly brought out 25,000 fans.

Port officials report that parks around San Diego Bay see from 250,000 to 300,000 people watching the show live. The most heavily trafficked spots include Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, the Marina District and the Coronado Ferry Landing.

Sandy Purdon
Founder & Executive Producer
Big Bay Boom

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of others watch the fireworks from their homes, hotel rooms and on boats, says Sandy Purdon, founder and executive producer of Big Bay Boom.

“San Diego Bay area hotels, restaurants, retail shops, tour operators, museums, charter cruise firms, boat rental companies, and other businesses see a boost from locals and visitors alike,” Purdon said.

The 2022 report noted that Port of San Diego sponsorship contribution was nearly $385,000.

Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners Chairman Frank Urtasun said the Port is proud to be the title sponsor for one of the biggest public events in San Diego County.

He called the event “free and open to everyone… a true joy (that) gives us the opportunity to showcase all the San Diego Bay waterfront has to offer.”

Frank Urtasun
Board Commissioner
Port of San Diego

“The Port of San Diego prides itself in delivering on our multilayered mission, which includes providing San Diegans, the people of California, and all who visit the San Diego region an active and prosperous waterfront. We do this day in and day out by driving billions into our local economy through our many businesses and marquee events like the Big Bay Boom,” Urtasun said.

Helping Military Members Make Ends Meet

Importantly, Purdon said, Big Bay Boom also provides financial assistance to the Armed Services YMCA, the oldest military support organization in the U.S., serving military members and their families since 1861, and in San Diego since 1924.

Purdon said that the YMCA Armed Services has been the event’s charity of choice for the event for 23 years.

“Since Day 1, because Fourth of July and the military connection, it’s a natural fit,” Purdon said. “This is a total social services type of thing. The families here, who get the same salaries as somebody that might be working in Louisiana, for instance, have a cost of living in San Diego that so much higher. They sometimes they have to go to the (Jacobs & Cushman) San Diego Food Bank to get food for their families, it’s just terrible.”

Purdon said the Big Bay Boom event costs about $600,000 to produce and that “anything over that figure the charity (YMCA) keeps.”

From the Big Baby Boom share, the charity – unlike the typical YMCA that offers gym memberships, summer camps and swimming pools – has averaged more than $50,000 a year since 2001 for a total of about $1.2 million, Purdon said.

Attracting Tourists

Nate Kelley, director of research for the San Diego Tourism Authority, said in general, the Fourth of July drives high demand for accommodations in San Diego, with Mission Bay reaping the greatest benefits.

Nate Kelley
Director of Research
San Diego Tourism Authority

In his findings dating back a dozen years, Kelley said hotel occupancy for July 3 was above 80% in Mission Bay in 10 of the past 12 years and 11 of the past 12 years on July 4.

Kelley said occupancy was above 90% in Mission Bay seven of the last 12 years on July 3 and eight of the past 12 years on July 4 and said that Mission Bay has nearly sold out with occupancy above 95% in five of the last 12 years.

Kelley said downtown and airport hotels also see a big boost in early July, thanks in a big way to the Big Bay Boom.

Close behind Mission Bay, downtown saw occupancy above 80% in 10 of the past 12 years on July 4 and above 90% in five of the last 12 years, Kelley said.

Also just behind Mission Bay, downtown hotels have nearly sold out with occupancy above 95% in four of the past 12 years with hotels near the airport seeing occupancy above 80% in nine of the past 12 years on July 4 and above 90% in five of the last 12 years. Kelley said that airport area hotels have nearly sold out (>95% occupancy) in three of the past 12 years.

“The fourth of July is a boon to local tourism and provides a huge boost to hotel occupancy and revenues,” Kelley said. “From the Big Bay Boom to our oceanfront communities, San Diego is teeming with summer energy on the fourth.”

More on the SDSU Study

Both direct economic impact from non-local attendees, such as spending on lodging, shopping and entertainment, and food and beverage was used in the study by SDSU’s hospitality group to determine the total economic impact.

The report also is inclusive of indirect impact which includes additional business generated in the local area resulting from Big Bay Boom activities.

Other benefits of the Big Bay Boom on the local economy unearthed through the study also include:

  • 42% of non-local attendees come to San Diego to watch the Big Bay Boom and an estimated 64% of the non-local group stayed in a hotel during their visit (with an average of 4.8 room nights at $248.85 per night);
  • Nearly $2 million come to the county via Transient Occupancy Tax (10.5%, bringing upward of $1.1 million) and sales tax (about $870,000) created by Big Bay Boom;
  • The Return of Income to the Port of San Diego ranges from 11.8:1 to 17.8:1 or a yield of $12 to $18 for every dollar the Port provides in sponsorship;
  • Since 2001, the Armed Services YMCA Charity has received more than $1.2 million to support their social programs for young enlisted families in San Diego who struggle with cost of living needs.

Attractions and Hotels

The USS Midway Museum has been hosting an annual 4th of July Viewing Party for Big Bay Boom since 2005 (with the exception of 2020).

David Koontz, director of Marketing for the Midway Museum, said the event attracts about 2,000 people on average and that tickets for this year’s event sold out in less than two hours.

David Koontz
Director of Marketing
Midway Museum

“The primary goal is for the event is focused on creating a wonderful Independence Day celebratory experience for San Diegans,” Koontz said. “While the flight deck of the Midway is one of the best viewing location on San Diego Bay to watch the fireworks, the event is more than just a cool place to take in the display. Midway truly makes the 4th of July evening a fun event, with a top-rated San Diego band, dance floor and a variety of activities for attendees. Midway’s 4th of July Viewing Party is one of San Diego’s most anticipated annual events along the bayfront.”

Sean Clancy, general manager of the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, said the Big Bay Boom is always a sold-out night for the Sheraton San Diego, which recently renovated its site and added new attractions.

Clancy said that depending on where the Fourth of July falls in the week, the Sheraton is often at 100% occupancy for several nights, based in part on Big Bay Boom festivities.

Sean Clancy
General Manager
San Diego Sheraton Hotel & Marina

“Historically, 75% of our guests are arriving from the Southern California, Arizona or Nevada drive market,” he said. “With the $100 million renovation of Sheraton San Diego completed in 2024, we’re eager to introduce our guests to our new modern resort pools, our Cali-Baja waterfront restaurant Rumorosa, and our new locale for beer enthusiasts, Brewery X Harbor Island. It’s wonderful to have these vibrant new experiences to share with our guests.”

In addition to watching the show from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, North Embarcadero, the Marina District and the Coronado Ferry Landing, as well as from the Midway Museum, other spots are catering to guests.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego will offer picnic dinners aboard The Berkeley and fireworks cruises aboard the America, Californian and Pilot ships. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park will have a concert with The Commodores. Flagship Cruises & Events will have a special spectator cruise that night as will City Cruises.

For more information on Big Bay Boom, visit bigbayboom.com

Armed Services YMCA San Diego
FOUNDED: 1924 (1861 nationally)
CEO: Timothy Ney
BUSINESS: Nonprofit
NET ASSETS: $10.2 million (2022)
WEBSITE: sandiego.asymca.org
CONTACT: 858-751-5755
SOCIAL IMPACT: Along with community partners, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego works to enhance the lives of military members and their families through food distributions, events, ticket give aways, toy drives and more.
NOTABLE: The ASYMCA is specifically dedicated to serving active duty junior enlisted military service members and their families. The oldest military support organization in the U.S., the ASYMCA has 12 branches and 24 affiliate partners, serving 87 military installations and facilities nationwide.


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