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Champaign County Planning Strong Comeback from COVID-19

23 Jun, 2020


As the greater Champaign County area looks ahead to recovery following COVID-19 restrictions, sports tourism is set to make significant impact to restart the local economy.

During the month of April, postponed events such as the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, the IFC Spring Invite, and the Big Ten Softball Tournament amounted to over $12 million in lost economic impact to the community. Spring and summer would have also welcomed four baseball tournaments from Game Day USA, accounting for another $3 million in impact.

While COVID-19 halted all sporting events for spring and early summer, sports planners are optimistic that they can hold their events later in the year. “Game Day USA is staying positive about the prospect of playing tournament baseball in July,” states Don Flynn, Senior Director of Development and Relationships, Game Day USA. “We have added an additional tournament in October across multiple states to extend the season. We are collaborating with other baseball and softball event providers and actively discussing a detailed plan for a safe return to the diamond.”

“During the shut-down, we went to work, connecting with our local events to determine if and when we could reschedule,” explains Mike Koon, Director of Sports, Events and Film with Visit Champaign County. “When we’re back to business, we will likely have one of the busiest fall seasons on record.”

Game Day USA plans to hold two of their five regularly scheduled tournaments July 10–12, an expected sell-out of 65 teams and October 2–4, another expected sell-out with 32 teams, bringing back $324,000 in revenue that would have normally come in earlier in the year.  They are also looking at ways to adapt to keep fans and players safe. “Examples being considered include having a safety officer on location to enforce social distancing, sanitizer stations in the dugouts, spreading fans out in the bleachers and along the sidelines, temperature checks upon arrival, having officials call the game from behind the mound, eliminating plate meetings and team huddles, and event staff protective gear,” explains Flynn.

This Thanksgiving weekend will also bring back the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Football Championships, held every even year at Memorial Stadium. Sixteen teams will compete over two days with over 35,000 fans, generating over $1.4 million in impact. Numerous changes to the setup of the event are anticipated to keep student athletes and fans safe.

While returning events will help bring the economy back to life, new events to the community will introduce new players and fans to the greater Champaign County area.

In August, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) will bring their Junior All-Star Tournament to the Urbana Country Club. This 96-player tournament which includes a 100-player qualifier, will bring an estimated $217,000 to the area. “This event will offer an incredible experience for the amateur athletes, many of whom will eventually be professionals, giving area fans an early look at future PGA stars,” states Koon.

In spring of 2021, the Rantoul Sports Complex will open with 25 events booked for five years, amounting to 393 total days of baseball, softball, and soccer. The state-of-the-art complex features eight baseball/softball turf fields, two t-ball/challenger baseball turf fields, and eight soccer/football/rugby/lacrosse multi-purpose turf fields alongside amenities for fans such as a splashpad, playground, concessions, and over 800 parking spaces. The new complex will support over 550 jobs and is expected to generate an estimated $27 million in economic impact for the region.

“While attendance and participation and sports may look different post-COVID19, it is clear that it is a vital component to restarting the greater Champaign County area’s economic engine. Continuing to service and sell our community as a sports destination remains a priority for Visit Champaign County,” states Jayne DeLuce, President & CEO of Visit Champaign County.

For more information on these events or on the impact of sports on the greater Champaign County area, contact Terri Reifsteck at terrir@visitchampaigncounty.org or 217-714-4273.

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