2016 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism | Sports Destination Management

2016 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism


Celebrating the Economic Impact of Sports Tourism

Sports Destination Management is proud to announce the 2016 “Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism” award winners; they are responsible for driving over $800 million into the North American economy last year.

An overwhelming number of nominations was received. While a wide variety of sports was represented, all had the common factor of having played a vital role in the local economies where the events were hosted. These winners represent the most notable success stories and illustrate quantifiable results from each of the event-destination partnerships. Working together, these event organizers and host destinations achieved outstanding economic impact, an exceptional experience for athletes and spectators, media attention to the destination and much more.

Recognition of the economic impact from our industry continues to build on the Sports Destination Management mission: dedication to the advancement in understanding the distinctions of planning, implementing and managing sports events and travel, particularly the event-destination relation- ship. As the cornerstone for successful events, the relationship between the event organizer and host city is a frequent topic throughout the pages. It is our pleasure to honor the most outstanding of those relationships nominated, and to recognize each of the partnering organizations involved.

Mid- to Large Market Champions

Photo courtesy of Dallas Sports Commission

Dallas Sports Festival
Dallas Sports Commission

Dallas, Texas

Total Room Nights: 26,975
Total Economic Impact: $52,772,403

This first-time multi-sport event, held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center Dallas in late June and early July, marked one of the last times the public would be able to see competitions sanctioned by USA Boxing, USA Volleyball and USA Fencing, before many of those athletes headed off to the Olympics in Rio. The event was a win for the Dallas Sports Commission, with a total attendance of 32,269 and an average per-guest spend of $667.34.

Photo courtesy of 43rd AAU Girls Junior National Volleyball Championships
43rd AAU Girls Junior National Volleyball Championships
Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), ESPN Wide World of Sports
Visit Orlando

Orlando, Florida

Total Room Nights: 80,000
Total Economic Impact: $52,000,000

This event, held over 12 days in mid- to late June of 2016, involved not only the AAU but ESPN Wide World of Sports and Visit Orlando. In total, it brought in 50,000 spectators to both the ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Orange County Convention Center, with more than 40,000 tourists from outside the area. The championships used a total of 525 volunteer referees, plus an additional 500-plus volunteers who helped with set-up and tear-down of courts.

Photo courtesy of 2016 18U Atlanta Legacy Showcase Champions Birmingham Thunderbolts 98
Atlanta Legacy Showcase Cobb Travel & Tourism

Woodstock, Georgia

Total Room Nights: 10,325
Total Economic Impact: $28,350,000

This event, a women’s college softball showcase, has experienced 25 percent year-over-year growth. In 2016, it drew 25,000 spec- tators and 18,500 tourists from outside the immediate area. Partnering to produce the event in the host destination were Chero- kee County Parks & Recreation Department, Cobb County Parks & Recreation Department and the City of Kennesaw Parks & Recreation Department. The average visitor spend was $750, which organizers note is a higher figure than would be found at a men’s event.

Photo courtesy of Athletx
Youth Baseball and Softball Nationals presented by Athletx Sports Group, LLC
City of Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Total Room Nights: 12,000
Total Economic Impact: $9,100,000

This event, a three-week tournament in June and July, included a variety of events, from opening ceremonies to championship games, skills contest and all-star games for all age groups involved. The schedule allowed each team to stay a full seven nights at the destination, and included an off-day to encourage all 6,000 athletes and families to experience Myrtle Beach. The event has experienced excellent growth, making an economic impact of $4,000,000 in 2014 and $6,900,000 in 2015. Per-day visitor spendingwas estimated at $140.

Sin City Shootout Sports Festival
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Las Vegas, Nevada

Total Room Nights: 5,000
Total Economic Impact:$7,200,000

This event, which began in 2007 as an LGBT softball tournament, has grown over the years and become a multi-sport event with more than 8,500 athletes and guests, and more than two dozen different sports competitions. Now using the Tropicana Hotel as its headquarters property, it is presently the City of Las Vegas' largest LGBT sporting event and the largest LGBT tourist event. The event is also the largest annual LGBT sporting event in the entire world. Average visitor spend is estimated at $1,500.00

The 5th Quarter Classic Powered by the Mobile Sports Authority
Mobile Sports Authority

Mobile, Alabama

Total Room Nights: 133,818
Total Economic Impact: $6,500,000

Mobile Sports Authority stated it was impressed by the support received for this first-time event, a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) football game. Over a five-day period, FAMU, Tuskegee and other universities offered local Mobile-area youth over $2 million in scholarship opportunities, as well as other activities to encourage children to pursue higher education. More than 27,000 tickets were sold to the football game, which included a battle of the bands, and a total of 19,323 attended all the events hosted. An average visitor spend of $208 was estimated.

Photo courtesy of USA Volleyball/Bill Kauffman
USA Volleyball Girls 18s Junior National Championships VISIT Milwaukee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Total Room Nights: 3,600
Total Economic Impact: $3,840,338

This first-time event, held in late April and early May, surpassed all expectations for VISIT Milwaukee. The three-day championships brought 161 teams to the city, with an estimated spend of $400 per visitor. The event was able to reach capacity for accepted teams, bringing VISIT Milwaukee to the conclusion that its facility needs will only in- crease in years to come. A total of 3,100 spectators attended the event, which created excellent economic impact throughout the city.

The Youth Baseball Nationals presented by Athletx Sports Reno Tahoe USA

Reno, Nevada

Total Room Nights: 5,440
Total Economic Impact: $3,321,362

In its first year in Reno, the Youth Baseball Nationals contributed a previously unheard-of economic impact to the region, with a visitor spend of $177 per person. The group has committed to the destination for two additional years and is poised to grow in years two and three. A total of 2,750 spectators attended; a total of 2,500 tourists came from outside the area. Reno Tahoe USA noted that the event focuses on creating an atmosphere for youth athletes that is fun, rewarding and positive.

Photo courtesy of Department of Veterans Affairs
2016 National Veterans Golden Age Games
Detroit Sports Commission, John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Department of Veterans Affairs

Detroit, Michigan

Total Room Nights: 4,500
Total Economic Impact: $3,000,000

The event, celebrating its 30th year, met with uniformly positive results not simply in terms of economic impact but in the way it was received and embraced by local media, citizens and the business community. At least 3,000 spectators attended the event; a total of 2,500 attended from outside the Detroit area. Each visitor was estimated to spend at least $180 per day. In addition, organizers praised the sheer inspiration the athletes provided for all those who came to watch.

Collier County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Naples, Florida

Total Room Nights: 1,500+
Total Economic Impact: $2,500,000

Spirit Promotions, which organized the brand-new event, originally estimated a crowd of 600 participants and 2,000 spectators. Over the five days, the event hosted 800 participants and 10,000 spectators. The county was expecting closer to $500,000 in local impact – another figure that had to be adjusted upward to reflect a $2,500,000 total. MINTO Communities, lead sponsor of the championships, noted that they sold four homes during the event and generated 100-plus qualified leads. The event is already taking registrations for next year.

The National Softball Association Girls Fast Pitch 'B' World Series The Evansville Sports Corporation in partnership with the Evansville & Owensboro Convention & Visitors Bureaus

Evansville, Indiana
Owensboro, Kentucky

Total Room Nights: 3,749
Total Economic Impact: $2,100,000

With 221 girls’ softball teams (ranging in age from eight to 18) from 13 different states, this was the largest single sporting event the region had ever hosted. Four different tournament sites with 28 fields were used across three counties and two states, as well as a 10,000-seat arena for the opening ceremonies. The event drew 5,000 spectators and 8,000 tourists from outside the region, and with an average per-visitor spend of $176, made a lasting impact on all communities involved.

Photo courtesy of TEXPIX.com
Texas West State Little League Tournament Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau

Abilene, Texas

Total Room Nights: 3,197
Total Economic Impact: $1,567,500

The Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau was able to convince organizers, who had previously hosted the state softball and baseball tournaments separately, and occasionally in different cities, to bring everything together in Abilene in order to create one large five-day event. This generated enormous economic impact while minimizing the resources of the city and the Texas West Little League Association. The event drew 1,691 spectators (most from outside the area) and 3,448 tourists. It also resulted in an av- erage spend per visitor of $110.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock Marketing
National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship
Lubbock Sports

Lubbock, Texas

Total Room Nights: 3,989
Total Economic Impact: $1,248,158

Bringing in 10,000 spectators and 4,500 non-local tourists (not to mention an average per-tourist spend of $277.37 per day), this event has been going strong for 10 years now. Lubbock Sports has noted that it will remain the host of the event (held at the Rip Griffin Center in late March) for the next two years, and that it intends to continue providing athletes and their families with the hospitality they have come to expect.


Photo courtesy of West Michigan Sports Commission

2016 USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships West Michigan Sports Commission

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Total Room Nights: 2,000
Total Economic Impact: $1,150,000

This mid-July event was the first national masters outdoor track & field event to come to the state of Michigan, and it brought with it more than 1,100 elite athletes from 48 states and four Canadian provinces – many of whom had never traveled to Michigan or competed at Grand Valley State University. Athletes stayed an average of two to three nights, resulting in an estimated spend per visitor of $527. An additional benefit to the area was realized due to increased media coverage.

Brett Morgan photograph courtesy of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival
Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

Cable Area and Hayward Area Chambers of Commerce

Hayward and Cable, Wisconsin

Total Room Nights: 6,435
Total Economic Impact: $1,100,000

The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is the classic example of an event a community grew organically to become a regional force. The first event, held in 1983, attracted 27 riders. It has since grown to become the nation’s largest mass start point-to-point off-road bicycle event; in fact, registration is now limited to 3,100 riders and the event sells out each year, with sign-ups available on a first-come, first-served basis. It brings in about 5,000 spectators, with an average visitor spend estimated at $150.

Small Market Champions

Photo courtesy of Bristol Motor Speedway
Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol: College Football’s Biggest Ever Kingsport Convention & Visitors Bureau
Bristol Convention & Visitors Bureau
Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau

Bristol, Tennessee

Total Room Nights: 18,000+
Total Economic Impact: $500,000,000

The Battle at Bristol was the first college football game ever held at Bristol Motor Speedway, located in Bristol, Tennessee. In ad- dition to being a source of significant economic impact for the area, it earned a designation from the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest attended football game with 170,000-plus packing the stands. In addition to filling every hotel room in a 90-mile radius of the stadium, visitors brought 2,000 campers into the area and parked around the venue.

Photo courtesy of Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau
HITS Ocala Winter Circuit
Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau

Ocala, Florida

Total Room Nights: 84,165
Total Economic Impact: $94,035,933

Halfway through the season, HITS (Horse Shows In The Sun) hosts this event, a qualifier for the FEI Nations Cup, one of the most prestigious events in horse show jumping each year. An estimated 80,000 spectators came to this event between January 19-March 27, 2016, along with 64,320 non-local tourists, including those who came from outside the country. During the event, the average visitor spending was $1,531.99, leading to the overall economic impact of just under $95 million.

Photo courtesy of American Birkebeiner and taken by Bob Pearl
American Birkebeiner
Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau

Hayward, Wisconsin

Total Room Nights: 4,100
Total Economic Impact: $20,000,000

Hayward, a community of approximately 2,300, pulls together each February to welcome this Nordic ski festival that commemo- rates the 1206 rescue of the Norwegian prince, carried out by Birkebeiner warriors. Over 10,000 skiers, from Olympians to novices, attend the event annually. The 2016 "Birkie" welcomed skiers from 22 countries and 46 states, who took part in the race that traveled through the north woods of Wisconsin on the more than 100-kilometer-long Birkie Trail.

Photo by Chris O’Brien
2016 United States Fastpitch Association World Series
Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

Panama City Beach, Florida

Total Room Nights: 21,798
Total Economic Impact: $11,978,790

Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Panama City Beach Parks and Recreation Department work together to host this event, which takes place over two weeks in July. More than 99 percent of all registrants come from outside the Panama City Beach area, and average visitor spending was listed at just over $1,000.00. USFA lists the event as a “playcation” and offers a golf tournament for parents and coaches, all of which feeds into the event’s success.

Photo courtesy of CAM-PLEX
2016 National High School Finals Rodeo
Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau
CAM-PLEX Multi Event Facilities

Gillette, Wyoming

Total Room Nights: 9,094
Total Economic Impact: $10,109,303

The National High School Finals Rodeo is a seven-day event, and is one of the largest rodeo events offered annually in the country. This year, a record 1,628 contestants participated, coming from every state, many Canadian provinces and even from Australia. In addition to the contestants, there were 842 judges, contractors, medical professionals, media, state directors and guests, resulting in 2,470 show participants. Organizers state there was a record-high 147 vendor booths this year as well. Over the course of the event, 11,933 visitors per day resulted in a total of 90,931 visitors.

Photo courtesy of Eldon Lindsay Photography
2016 U.S. Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championships
Hamilton County Sports Authority

Westfield, Indiana

Total Room Nights: 11,000
Total Economic Impact: $9,500,000

Grand Park was chosen to host this event in 2013. This was well before all the fields in the venue were completed and opened for play in the spring of 2014. The event organizers had a high level of trust in the facility and in the local organizing committee, and as it turned out, that trust was well-placed. The event was so successful, it was awarded to Grand Park once again in 2018 and the LOC has been encouraged to bid on hosting the 2019 event as well.

Photo courtesy of Dave Eggen
2016 Summit League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships
Sioux Falls Sports Authority

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Total Room Nights: 12,453
Total Economic Impact: $7,774,020

The Summit League Basketball Championships, known by some as “March’s best kept secret,” has become a Sioux Falls tradition, breaking attendance records annually. In 2016, the eighth championships brought more than 65,000 fans into the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. The tradition will stay intact, according to the Sioux Falls Sports Authority, which notes that a total of 4,000 all session tickets have been sold for 2017. The event has grown year-over-year in economic impact, recording $2,000,000 in 2013, $8,500,000 in 2014 and $11,500,000 in 2015.

Photo courtesy of NEOBA
2016 King James Shooting Stars Classic
Sports Alliance of Greater Akron – powered by: Akron/Summit
Convention & Visitors Bureau

Akron, Ohio

Total Room Nights: 8,900
Total Economic Impact: $4,718,750

This youth basketball event, hosted by Akron, Ohio's native son, LeBron James, allows the area to leverage its sports facility assets as well as to showcase its hospitality. The Shooting Stars Classic brings in more than 37,750 individuals (including 14,500 youth athletes). While the number of teams participating varies each year, the event consistently generates nearly $5 million in economic impact, made even more meaningful by the fact that it is held in late April, which is shoulder season for Akron.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Dunn, Snohomish County Sports Commission
2016 Washington Rush Cup
Washington Rush Soccer Club
Snohomish County Sports Commission

Snohomish, Washington

Total Room Nights: 6,000
Total Economic Impact: $4,584,105

This youth soccer tournament, after being held in Skagit County, Washington, for many years, met with outstanding success once it moved to Snohomish County. The event, which included boys’ and girls’ teams in age groups ranging from U9 to U19, was held at Meadow Wood Equestrian Center, which was configured to accommodate 40 fields. To date, this event is the largest three-day soccer tournament held in Snohomish County, with 10,176 spectators in attendance. A total of 7,500 tourists came from outside the immediate area.

Photo courtesy of Global Marketing Solutions of FLW Outdoors
2016 Forrest Wood Cup
Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Huntsville, Alabama

Total Room Nights: 2,500
Total Economic Impact: $3,000,000

This event was a double first for Huntsville, being not only the first time the area had ever hosted the Cup, but the first time it had ever hosted a fishing tournament of this scope. A total of 53,000 spectators attended the four day weigh-ins and the three-day fish- ing expo. Economic impact was enjoyed in Huntsville and in three surrounding counties that partnered to promote and host addi- tional events. As a result of the positive media attention generated, Huntsville/Madison County looks forward to hosting future events at Ditto Landing.

Photo courtesy of Global Marketing Solutions
NCAA National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission
University of Alabama at Birmingham and the City of Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Total Room Nights: 1,108
Total Economic Impact: $1,200,000

This was the first year the NCAA offered beach volleyball as a championship sport, and with Gulf Shores’ help, it made an excellent first impression. The economic impact of the tournament and its 5,915 fans increased 246 percent over 2015, when the event was offered by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Gulf Shores also enjoyed the exposure of three days of national television coverage, and is looking forward to hosting the event once again in 2017.


Photo courtesy Greg Kinnear, Kinnear Photography
Stars and Stripes Gymnastics Invitational
Erie Sports Commission and Erie Gymnastics

Erie, Pennsylvania

Total Room Nights: 1,000
Total Economic Impact: $977,500

The Stars and Stripes Gymnastics Invitational has experienced year-over-year growth. Fifteen years ago, the event was a one-day competition for 250 athletes; it now extends over four days and features nearly 1,700 of the region's best athletes. In 2011, the event partnered with the newly formed Erie Sports Commission and moved to the Bayfront Convention Center. It is now the second-largest gymnastics competition in Pennsylvania and additionally offers free admission to members of the military, veterans and first responders, and donates funds to military-related charities.


Photo courtesy of NAIA
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics 2016 Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational Championship
VisitGreenvilleSC, Greenville High School

Greenville, South Carolina

Total Room Nights: 1,475
Total Economic Impact: $882,000

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) chose to host its inaugural lacrosse tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, in early May. More than 1,000 spectators attended, as did 800 tourists from outside the area, and organizers noted an av- erage visitor spend of $385. VisitGreenvilleSC partnered with Greenville County Parks, Recreation & Tourism and with Greenville County Schools to host the event. The city intends to repeat its success and build upon it when it hosts the event again in 2017.

Photo courtesy of Prince George County, VA
2016 ASA 14U Class A Girls Fast Pitch Eastern Championship
Prince George County, Virginia

Prince George County, Virginia

Total Room Nights: 1,350
Total Economic Impact: $842,400

Prince George County, a community of 36,000, has been striving to expand its sports tourism, and with this, its first major national tournament, it saw widespread success. The event, held in late July and early August, put all four of the area’s hotels at or near capacity. A total of 1,200 spectators attended and organizers recorded 810 tourists from outside the region. The per-visitor-per-night spend was calculated at $208. The county notes that the per capita tax revenue raised will help keep local tax levels stable and provide funding for future improvements.

Photo courtesy of Lang Lew
Speedo 2016 Summer Sectionals California-Nevada
Placer Valley Tourism

Roseville, California

Total Room Nights: 1,052
Total Economic Impact: $226,088+

The USA Swimming Speedo Summer Sectionals, a four-day event held in late July, drew over 2,000 spectators to the area and produced more room nights than any other aquatic competition the destination has ever hosted. It also attracted 1,000 tourists from outside the area. Placer Valley Tourism worked with the City of Roseville, as well as with regional affiliate, Sierra Nevada Swimming, and local California Capital Aquatics to produce the event, which exceeded the expectations for both room nights and economic impact.

Innovations in Sports Tourism

Photo courtesy of FLWOutdoors; Curtis Niedermier
Fish Dayton
Rhea Economic & Tourism Council, Inc.

Dayton, Tennessee

Total Room Nights: 39,846
Total Economic Impact: $14,000,000

Dayton, Tennessee, a small town with a population of only 7,100, was identified by the Appalachian Region as an "Economically Distressed" area. It decided to parlay its natural resource to bring in fishing-related sports tourism. As a result, it attracted tour- naments from, among others, Bassmasters, FLW, Cabela's and more. The county’s recruiting efforts has caused the construction of two hotels, four restaurants and a number of associated jobs and spurred $10,000,000 in new private investments.

Photo courtesy of Sgt. Chris Stone, Marine Corps Installations Eat Combat Camera
Red Bull Global RallyCross
Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina
Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission

Jacksonville, North Carolina

Total Room Nights: 450
Total Economic Impact: $1,800,000

This second-year event is unique in that it is held aboard a Marine Corps air station with the track built on the airstrip and an at- tendance of 15,000 spectators (many of whom are family and friends of competitors). The event is also televised on NBC Sports, providing further exposure to the destination. An average visitor spend of $650 during the event boosted the economic impact, as did large amounts of sponsorship investment, which helped keep the RallyCross open to the general public as a military appreciation event.

Photo courtesy of Grace Trowbridge
The Miramichi Striper Cup
The City of Miramichi

Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada

Total Room Nights: 465
Total Economic Impact: $795,000

Event owners noted the city of Miramichi is constantly examining ways to expand the tourism season, and the presence of a large number of striped bass was seen as a potential boon during a traditionally slower economic period (May). The event was a huge success, and calculations for its economic impact do not even reflect the approximately 30 days of overnight stays from numerous anglers who were attracted to the region due to the overwhelming publicity from the 2015 event; in fact, there was economic growth of 106.5 percent since that year.

Photo courtesy of Linda Parker
71st NFAA Outdoor Field Archery Championship
Darrington Archers; Darrington, Washington

Darrington, Washington

Total Room Nights: 600
Total Economic Impact: $368,715

Darrington, a small town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, had been devastated by the 2014 Oso Mudslides on Highway 530. The opportunity for the Darrington Archers to host the Field Archery Championship created a welcome influx of visitor spending in the town. The event brought more than 400 archers from across the United States to compete in Junior, Amateur, Senior or Professional divisions during the five-day competition, with 200 spectators and 500 non-local tourists.


Photo courtesy of Nick Smirnoff
Tehachapi GranFondo, Presented by Kaiser Permanente
City of Tehachapi

Tehachapi, California

Total Room Nights: 620
Total Economic Impact: $300,000

Working with its tourism commission and the Kern County Board of Trade, the city of Tehachapi hosted the award-winning GranFondo (it was named Cycle California Magazine’s Best Century), an event that showcased the destination to thousands of visitors, both cyclists and others. It has grown 40 percent since last year’s edition, bringing in 500 spectators and 2,000 tourists, with an average visitor spend of $350. Organizers note that during the event, hotels are at 85 percent occupancy, whereas in a normal weekend, occupancy might be 30 percent.