With University of Iowa women’s basketball superstar Caitlin Clark expected to go to the Indiana Fever with the first-overall pick of the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 15, the choice is not only a boost for the Fever’s roster—it is also expected to mean a significant economic impact for Central Indiana.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Michael Hicks from the Miller College of Business at Ball State University, Ms. Clark’s addition to the Fever roster is expected to bring an estimated 26,000 more fans to Fever games throughout the season, at least 10,000 of whom will be coming from outside the region and will spend money in hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment venues during their stay.

“This will bring a net increase of more than $2.4 million to the region, and will boost local employment by roughly 23 workers,” said Dr. Hicks, George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics and Business Research and director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

In addition, the increased media attention on the Fever in Indianapolis and Central Indiana is projected to result in millions of dollars worth of exposure for both the city and the broader area. For example, the Iowa-LSU Elite Eight matchup on April 1 became the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever, with an average of 12.3 million viewers, according to ESPN. In comparison, last year’s MLB World Series averaged 9.11 million viewers for the series. That record was broken just days later, with the NCAA Final Four semifinal matchup between Iowa and UConn averaging more than 14.2 million viewers, with 16 million tuning in at peak viewership.

It only took two days for that record to be shattered again, as preliminary viewership numbers from ESPN and ABC’s broadcast of the NCAA women’s national title game averaged 18.7 million, according to ESPN. Nielsen numbers reported the audience peaked at 24 million for the contest between South Carolina and Iowa. ESPN reports it was the most-watched basketball game since the 2019 men’s NCAA title game between Texas Tech and Virginia.

Media coverage of Caitlin Clark during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament from March 20 through April 9 was calculated by Ball State’s College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM), in partnership with Game Day, a media and marketing agency based in Cincinnati. The results are impactful: more than 162,000 media stories featured Clark, resulting in 177 billion media impressions valued at more than $2.6 billion (source: Critical Mention).

“All eyes will be on Indiana and Caitlin Clark when the WNBA season tips off in May,” said CCIM Dean Dr. Paaige Turner. “The media impact she will have will extend far beyond the court, as higher TV viewership and higher attendance means fans will be exposed to everything this area offers, including restaurants, education, tourism, and recreation.”

That kind of exposure is “priceless to women’s college basketball,” according to Betsy Ross, former ESPN anchor and founder and president of Game Day.

“There is no reason to think that viewers would lose interest when Clark makes the jump from college basketball to the pros,” Ms. Ross said. “The intangible is that she adds a ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ factor to the city that the hottest player in the league will call home.”

Ms. Clark is also expected to elevate the entire league—similar to the “Messi effect” when global soccer superstar Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami in 2023, leading to increased jersey sales, skyrocketing ticket prices on the secondary market and new sponsorships.

According to Fortune, MLS league partnership revenue was up 17 percent from 2022 to 2023 when Mr. Messi joined Miami, and individual club sponsorship was up 15 percent, while Mr. Messi’s Miami jersey was the highest seller of any soccer player and was tops among all athletes except Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

“Caitlin Clark is a media star, and we are so fortunate that Central Indiana will benefit from her popularity and her accessibility to fans and sponsors,” Dean Turner said.