Sports tourism in Erie County came back in a major way in 2021, highlighted by several events that favorably placed Erie, Pa. in the national spotlight. Events supported by the Erie Sports Commission (ESC) had an economic impact of more than $18 million in Erie County, more than double the impact of events hosted in 2020, a year marked by extensive event cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When 2021 began, sports tourism was still very much in a state of uncertainty and flux, both in Erie and nationally,” said Mark Jeanneret, Executive Director of the Erie Sports Commission. “What we ultimately saw was that our event directors had learned how to host events safely in 2020, and as restrictions slowly lifted, we were all ready to begin hosting again. There was an obvious appetite for athletes and their families to travel for sports again, and we saw those competitors return to Erie for events more quickly than we anticipated. To see our impact reaching nearly what it was in 2019 so soon is extremely encouraging.”
In every area, the ESC saw a stark contrast in 2021 compared to the previous year:
- 69 events supported (compared to 29 in 2020)
- 174 event days (compared to 64.5 in 2020)
- 26 new events (compared to 8 in 2020)
- $18.1 million in estimated economic impact (compared to $9.2 million in 2020)
The 2021 sporting events calendar was highlighted by major events that placed Erie in front of a national audience.
The 2021 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, which the ESC co-hosted with Mercyhurst University, featured all eight teams in the collegiate women’s hockey tournament for the first time in the tournament’s 20-year history, a decision made by the NCAA to reduce travel by teams in the postseason. The event was open to a limited number of fans, but reached a national audience through live broadcasts on ESPN networks.
The 2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Northeast Regional Qualifier was another major tourism generator in Erie. The event, which was originally planned for 2020, was held at Presque Isle State Park in June and saw more than 220 anglers from 11 states compete in Erie for nearly a week on the path to the Bassmaster Classic.
“Erie’s sports market was a huge part of why we saw Erie County’s tourism industry rebound so quickly from the effects of 2020,” said John Oliver, President and CEO of VisitErie. “We saw multiple NCAA postseason events, major youth travel tournaments and much more. It was clear that athletes were ready to compete and, more importantly, that we were ready to accommodate them. Though we are still coping with the effects of the pandemic and our recovery is far from complete, I’m optimistic about 2022.”
The Erie Sports Commission is committed to promoting the Erie region as a prime destination for sports and recreation. The major goals of the ESC are to attract, create, support, and host sporting and recreational events that have a positive economic impact on the region, and assist in maximizing the potential of all regional sports facilities and venues. The ESC strives to enhance the image of Erie by showcasing the community, promote wellness through healthy lifestyles, and improve the quality of life for community members of all ages.