Studies have been conducted on the economic impact the Boilermaker has on Utica and the entire region and it is significant. However, the race creates another kind of impact more difficult to quantify but equally important. Psychic Impact refers to the emotional effects that prestigious events and sports teams have on their host communities. It is a term that has emerged recently from the field of sports economics, primarily to justify large public investments into private arenas and stadiums. I have no interest in exploring the ethics of that topic but the concept of psychic impact does raise interesting questions relevant to the role that the Boilermaker can play in Utica’s future.
Can the Boilermaker (or Comets games, or concerts at the Stanley…) remedy the city’s economic troubles? Certainly not but they do make us feel better about our city and that absolutely has the ability to translate into measurable progress. It’s simple – when you take pride in something you take care of it and you invest in it. When Utica’s younger generations feel civic pride about their home, they are more likely to stay, raise families and start businesses here.
Our race generates an enormous amount of Utica pride, as it should. After all, the Boilermaker has no inherent characteristics other than a hilly 9.3 mile stretch of asphalt. The accolades that are so often laid on the race have EVERYTHING to do with the people that live here, without whom the Boilermaker would be just another race. It is the overwhelming community pride that thrusts our race into the elite tier of “must-do” road races in the USA.
The Boilermaker drastically improves the way we think and feel, not only about our city and neighbors but our guests as well. During Boilermaker weekend, we welcome thousands of visitors from across the country, putting our city on a national stage. Everywhere you look, Boilermaker flags fly and landscaping is immaculate.
Seeing it every year, it is baffling to me to then see the general malaise and cynicism that too often plague us throughout the rest of the year. I hear if often, if only we could harness the “Boilermaker Spirit” and sustain it throughout the year…
So if Boilermaker 40 can leave any lasting legacy on Utica, let it be this: That “Boilermaker Spirit” that was so ubiquitous and infectious all week long actually has nothing to do with the race. The race just reveals a “Utica Spirit” that lives in all of us who call the Mohawk Valley home. All we need to do is capture it and live it the other 364 days of the year.