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Taylor Swift and her Swifties provide an economic boost for Kansas City

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

Taylor Swift did not put Kansas City on the map. It's always been known for jazz and its award-winning food scene. More recently, it's been a sports powerhouse after two Super Bowl wins by the Kansas City Chiefs. And now celebrity culture has put the city in the spotlight. Of course, I'm talking about the relationship between pop star Taylor Swift and the Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce. KCUR's Savannah Hawley-Bates reports Swiftonomics (ph) has given the local economy a boost.

(CHEERING)

SAVANNAH HAWLEY-BATES, BYLINE: 2023 was a year of celebration for Kansas City. Besides the Chiefs beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, in July, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour came to town. She debuted a new music video and her album "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)" at the KC shows. The city went all out for her stop, creating a lineup of Swift-themed events. And then there was the news that some had suspected all along when Swift showed up at a Chiefs game wearing the team's colors in September.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The rumors, apparently, are true. Taylor Swift is friends with Travis Kelce.

HAWLEY-BATES: Swelce or Traylor or Tayvis, the nicknames people decided to call them, brought renewed worldwide attention to Kansas City. Mayor Quinton Lucas says Swift's given Kansas City a new brand, a big reputation, just like the line in one of her songs.

QUINTON LUCAS: I happened to be in Paris this year for the Rugby World Cup. There was a woman from the foreign service in New Zealand who said, oh, my gosh, you're from Kansas City. I was like, yeah. She's like, Taylor Swift, right? And she's dating some not-very-famous footballer. I'm like, actually, he's kind of a big deal for us.

HAWLEY-BATES: Visit KC, the city's tourism arm, says the city made about $200 million just from Swift's Eras Tour this summer. After her relationship with Kelce went public, StubHub reported that ticket sales for all Chiefs home games tripled for the rest of the season. Visit KC spokesperson Derek Byrne says it's opened a lot of doors for the city to promote itself.

DEREK BYRNE: Even if Taylor Swift's name isn't in some of the work we're doing, it is still giving people a reason to think of us a little more seriously.

HAWLEY-BATES: According to an analysis by Google Trends, searches asking where is Kansas City more than doubled in the U.S. over the past three months, and search interest in local restaurants skyrockets each time the couple visits one. Even searches for flights based on the pair's travel patterns out of Kansas City are rising.

Kansas City business owners say the newfound attention has been a boon for them. Chris Harrington, the owner of Westside Storey, sells vintage Kansas City gear. When Swift wore a vintage sweatshirt and a crocheted hat from the store to one of the latest Chiefs games, business soared.

CHRIS HARRINGTON: It's - it'll be part of our legacy in some sense, you know, like, as kind of, like, weird as that sounds, that one person just buys a sweatshirt and that's, like, a moment. But for us, being a small shop in Kansas City, that is our moment.

KEITH BRADLEY: So we've got some, you know, No. 87 hair clips.

HAWLEY-BATES: At Made in KC, a store selling goods from hundreds of local makers, co-owner Keith Bradley has noticed a lot more Swift- and Kelce-related foot traffic.

BRADLEY: It's definitely something that I think the city's really proud of. Whether you're a die-hard fan or just getting to know Taylor Swift or have never heard of her, you can't escape her celebrity.

HAWLEY-BATES: Bradley says the relationship has inspired vendors at his store to create Swift-and-Kelce-centric merchandise, like a pair of earrings with both of their faces on it or a sweatshirt in Chiefs colors that says, I'm just here for Taylor.

There's no telling whether the Taylor Swift magic will continue to rub off on Kansas City, but it can't hurt when she changes her song lyrics to include her new boyfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) Karma is the guy on the Chiefs coming straight home to me.

HAWLEY-BATES: And that's a relationship residents and businesses here eagerly support, along with the benefits that Taylor Swift's star power brings.

For NPR News, I'm Savannah Hawley-Bates in Kansas City.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KARMA")

SWIFT: (Singing) Karma is my boyfriend. Karma is a god. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Savannah Hawley-Bates