Nov 20, 2017 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Sports Destination Management is proud to announce the 2017 “Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism” award winners.

An overwhelming number of nominations was received, all of which represented a variety of sports. And despite the fact there was so much variance in the type of event and athletes served, all had the common denominator of playing 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 relationship. 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 PHLCVB
2017 NFL Draft
Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Total Room Nights: 18,991
Total Economic Impact: $94,900,000

The 2017 NFL Draft attracted attendees from 42 different states, with 92 percent of those stating the Draft was their sole purpose for visiting. More than 1,400 volunteers assisted with the event. The total economic impact of the 2017 event was a full $13.3 million increase over that of the previous year, when it was held in a different city. Additionally, the 2017 economic impact figure does not include spending by sponsors and other large corporations holding events in conjunction with the Draft.

44th AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships
Amateur Athletic Union, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Visit Orlando
Orlando, Florida

Total Room Nights: 86,865
Total Economic Impact: $45,000,000

The 44th AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships, the largest youth volleyball event in the world as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records, was held over 12 days in June of 2017 at ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Orange County Convention Center. The event, at which upwards of 500 college coaches were in attendance, brought in not only 28,327 non-local tourists, but it had almost 50,000 spectators, and championship matches were featured on ESPN3.

Photo courtesy of National Senior Games Association
2017 National Senior Games Presented by Humana
Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau
Birmingham, Alabama

Total Room Nights: 10,000
Total Economic Impact: $30,000,000

This event marked the 30th anniversary of the National Senior Games, a multi-sport event for athletes age 50 and up, with the oldest competitor being 104. In addition to drawing more than 15,000 spectators and 20,000 tourists, the event included entertainment, socials and presentations, as well as honors to athletes who had attended all iterations of the Senior Games through the years. The event not only had outstanding economic impact but enjoyed coverage from major media outlets nationwide.

Photo courtesy of AAU
2017 AAU Junior Olympic Games
Amateur Athletic Union & Detroit Sports Commission
Detroit, Michigan

Total Room Nights: 10,000
Total Economic Impact: $30,758,100

The AAU Junior Olympic Games is the largest youth multi-sport event in the country, with participants from 45 states. The event drew almost $15,000 tourists and 20,000 spectators to Detroit. Nearly 500 volunteers were involved in making the Junior Olympics a success. Despite the fact that the Games are a tradition and are reminiscent of the Olympics themselves (they included an address from nine-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis), they continue to evolve. This year’s event featured pickleball and girls’ wrestling.

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago
Adidas Windy City National Qualifier
Choose Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Total Room Nights: 12,565
Total Economic Impact: $19,000,000

The Adidas Windy City National Qualifier, a three-day youth volleyball event, drew 16,000 tourists and an additional 24,000 spectators to the city of Chicago to watch the action. The event was a qualifier for the USA Volleyball's Girls' Junior National Championship and featured top club teams from across the country competing in the 12s-17s age divisions. The event has evolved and includes optional high-performance tryouts. More than 100 volunteers worked this event, for which selected matches were live-streamed.

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau
2017 Icy Hot IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships
Chattanooga Sports Committee
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Total Room Nights: 15,700
Total Economic Impact: $22,000,000

The 2017 Icy Hot IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships was the largest event ever produced in IRONMAN’s 41-year history. A total of 4,500 athletes competed, representing 91 countries. Hosting this event has made Chattanooga the only city in the world to host a full-distance IRONMAN, a 70.3 IRONMAN and the 70.3 IRONMAN World Championship (which includes two events in two days). A total of 3,000 volunteers assisted in putting on the event, which drew 16,000 tourists and 20,000 spectators.

Photo courtesy of Bill Stoler
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Total Room Nights: 23,963
Total Economic Impact: $12,868,898

It took a total of 1,000 volunteers to put on this event, which drew more than 100,000 spectators over the two-day race weekend. Event analysis showed a 15 percent growth in direct spending over that of the previous year. Organizers note this is the nation’s largest vintage race, as well as the only one run on city streets. The event also raised funds for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh as well as the Allegheny Valley School.

Photo courtesy of West Michigan Sports Commission
State Games of America
West Michigan Sports Commission
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Total Room Nights: 5,000
Total Economic Impact: $10,000,000

The State Games of America, a biennial, Olympic-style event, features competitions between the State Games medal winners (gold, silver and bronze) from across the United States. A total of 30 states conduct or organize State Games, and in Michigan, more than 2,000 volunteers helped make this event a success.  The event hosted 12,000 athletes from 47 states as well as the District of Columbia, Canada and the Virgin Islands, competing in 47 sports hosted at 35 venues across West Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Roberto Gonzales
American Youth Football & Cheer National Championships
Kissimmee Sports Commission
Kissimmee, Florida

Total Room Nights: 19,796
Total Economic Impact: $8,754,008

The American Youth Football & Cheer Championships are the largest youth football and cheer tournament, with over 15,903 participants and spectators. The event has enjoyed 10 percent year over year growth, and organizers say their partnership with Kissimmee is unparalleled, with participants benefitting not only from the football games and cheer, step and dance competitions, but from the social events and the proximity to theme parks and other attractions. Events were held at venues including the Austin Tindall Park and the Silver Spurs Arena.

2017 Jam On It Reno Memorial Day AAU Tournament
Jam On It and Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority
Reno, Nevada

Total Room Nights: 16,000
Total Economic Impact: $4,620,000

The Jam on It Reno Memorial Day AAU Tournament is the largest “all under one roof” basketball tournament in the world, with 1,005 teams making up a total of 15,000 participants. Players competed in 2,104 games on 85 courts over the three-day holiday weekend at the Reno Sparks Convention Center. The event drew 28,000 spectators and took 150 volunteers to put on, since it drew teams from a wide range of states across the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau
Head of the Hooch
Chattanooga Sports Committee
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Total Room Nights: 6,600
Total Economic Impact: $5,500,000

Head of the Hooch is one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with more than 2,100 boats racing over two days. More than 10,000 seats are rowed, with over 1,200 boats on Saturday alone, the largest in one day of any other regatta. Participants came from over 200 different organizations, in one year representing 21 states and four countries. About 1,000 volunteers assist with this event, which draws more than 15,000 spectators and is consistently recognized as the regatta to attend.

Photo courtesy of John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
USA Gymnastics Championships
VISIT Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Total Room Nights: 4,345
Total Economic Impact: $5,400,000

The 2017 USA Gymnastics Championships welcomed more than 2,500 athletes from across the country. Athletes competed in three disciplines: Acrobatic, Trampoline & Tumbling, and Rhythmic. The event encompassed two of Milwaukee’s largest venues, the BMO Harris Bradley Center and the Wisconsin Center, over a three-day period including the weekend that preceded the Fourth of July. It drew upwards of 4,500 spectators. Organizers credit the success of the event to the strong partnership between VISIT Milwaukee, USA Gymnastics and the two venues.

Photo courtesy of Shana Miller
TSSAA Spring Fling
Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Rutherford County, Tennessee

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

The Tennessee State High School Championships in five sports – baseball, softball, girls’ soccer, track & field and tennis – has become an Olympic-style event, with all sports taking place during the same week in late May. Approximately 30,000 spectators attend the event throughout the week, and over 1,000 volunteers were required to make it happen. Organizers note the event has not only brought the community together to support athletes, but has resulted in increased attention being paid to the area as a sports destination.

Photo courtesy of Shelby Aminti
Emerald City Open – 2017 Spartan’s US Championship Series
Snohomish County Sports Commission
Snohomish, Washington

Total Room Nights: 2,316
Total Economic Impact: $3,200,000

The Spartan Super & Sprint, Emerald City Open was the first event of the U.S. Championship Series. The event, held in late April, drew 7,000 contestants and 3,000 spectators to Meadow Woods Equestrian Center in Snohomish, where all aspects of the Open were held. A total of 200 volunteers assisted in putting on the event. NBC Sports was on-site to cover all aspects of the Emerald City Open. Spartan Race also live-streamed the event to 500,000 viewers.

Photo courtesy of ISSA
6th Annual ISSA/WBSC World Tournament of Champions
Tampa Bay Sports Commission, World Baseball Softball
Confederation, International Senior Softball Association
Tampa, Florida

Total Room Nights: 3,000
Total Economic Impact: $2,292,500

The ISSA/WBSC World Tournament of Champions was created six years ago when the Tampa Bay Sports Commission approached the International Senior Softball Association and asked about bringing a sports tourism event to the area. In the ensuing years, the event, which attracts more than 3,200 tourists and 1,300 spectators, has met all projections. The average visitor spend is over $700, according to organizers, and the 2017 event alone showed nearly 125 percent growth over the one held in 2016.

Small Market Champions

Photo courtesy of Craig Dutton
2017 UCI BMX World Championships
City of Rock Hill, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department
City of Rock Hill, South Carolina

Total Room Nights: 27,800
Total Economic Impact: $29,900,000

The UCI BMX Championships came to Rock Hill, marking the first time in 16 years the event was held in the United States. The event, second only to the Olympics in the BMX world, drew 3,700 competitors from 48 countries. UCI, the international governing body of cycling, told Rock Hill the event had broken multiple records. More than 700 volunteers assisted with the event, which brought in more than 19,000 spectators who viewed the action at the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track.

Photo courtesy of Richard Field Levine
California Rodeo Salinas
City of Salinas
Salinas, California

Total Room Nights: 550
Total Economic Impact: $11,000,000

California Rodeo Salinas is over 100 years old. It is the largest rodeo in California and in the top 20 rodeos in the United States. In addition to generating sizeable economic impact, the event gives back over $400,000 per year to local non-profits. More than 51,000 spectators attended this event, which took place in late July. About 1,300 volunteers are involved with the event, which is supported by the California Rodeo Association and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

Visit Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach, Florida

Total Room Nights: 17,340
Total Economic Impact: $10,500,000

Participants in the IRONMAN Florida – held at a slow tourism time for Panama City Beach – came from a total of 60 countries and all 50 states. This is the second-oldest IRONMAN event in the U.S. and is generally a sell-out. In addition to having substantial economic impact, the event, which used 4,000 volunteers in 2017, benefitted local projects including parks and law enforcement. It brought 13,000 spectators to the Panama City Beach area.

Photo courtesy Scott Wells Photography
Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon
Visit Champaign County
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Total Room Nights: 9,000
Total Economic Impact: $10,000,000

The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon is an example of a home-grown event that has become an economic driver. Founded nine years ago, the event has blossomed into a Boston Marathon qualifier with a variety of events including the marathon itself, as well as a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon relay, wheelchair half marathon and a youth run. A total of 30,000 spectators are involved, along with 2,700 volunteers. Through all this, the event has remained locally owned.

Photo courtesy of Horstman
Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series
Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau
Akron, Ohio

Total Room Nights: 1,450
Total Economic Impact: $5,850,000

The Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, running from late June through late September, began 15 years ago with under 4,000 participants. It now has more than 15,000, plus 120,000 spectators, necessitating more than 3,000 volunteers. The marathon itself, a Boston qualifier, attracts runners from more than 40 states and seven countries. Because of the event’s popularity, two shorter races were added earlier in the season to allow for training for the marathon. Those draw participation from more than 20 countries.

Oregon Wrestling Classic
Deschutes Fair & Expo
Redmond, Oregon

Total Room Nights: 23,000
Total Economic Impact: $4,300,000

The Oregon Wrestling Classic, with more than 3,000 participants, is one of the largest wrestling tournaments in the country. Other impressive numbers include 84 high school teams, 1,000 Cadets and 100 women wrestlers, competing in five divisions. The event additionally draws 23,460 tourists. It is presented in January of each year and allows Redmond to roll out a red carpet for the wrestlers, their families and other visitors. The event is supported by an all-volunteer organization.

WSL Panama City Beach World Series
World Sports League
Panama City Beach, Florida

Total Room Nights: 8,000
Total Economic Impact: $4,200,000

The WSL Panama City Beach World Series, one of the largest adult tournaments in the country, attracting some of the best players nationwide, is held over three weeks in September, which is typically a slow time in the area for tourism business. It has grown at a rate of about five percent year-over-year. A total of 323 teams, representing 30 states, played in three skill levels, plus co-ed teams, and brought in more than 10,000 spectators.

Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships
Collier County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Naples, Florida

Total Room Nights: 2,500
Total Economic Impact: $4,900,000

In only its second year, the Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships saw 35 percent growth, with 1,300 total participants and nearly 11,000 spectators, nearly half of whom were from outside the area and needed accommodations. Thanks to this event, and subsequent others it has attracted, Naples has dubbed itself “pickleball capital of the world.” In addition, the city has approved the capital to build a sports complex in order to bring more sports tourism to the area.

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship – Prelim Round
Greenville, South Carolina

Total Room Nights: 6,300
Total Economic Impact: $3,750,000

The much-publicized removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in South Carolina made it possible for the state to once again bid on NCAA events. The controversial bill, HB2, in North Carolina, speeded up the process, and Greenville was selected to host preliminary rounds of March Madness 2017. According to NCAA, the first and second rounds of the tournament, which attracted 28,000 spectators, were the first to sell out tickets. 

Photo courtesy of Scott Clause/USA TODAY Network
National Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament of Champions
Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, Townsquare Media
and Ragin’ Cajun Boxing Club
Lafayette, Louisiana

Total Room Nights: 4,200
Total Economic Impact: $3,675,000

More than 1,000 boxers, coaches and officials from 50 states, plus 7,500 spectators, attended the week-long National Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament of Champions, which is a qualifying event for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Approximately 4,000 non-local tourists also came to Lafayette for the event. Competition took place in both the Convention Center and in the CAJUNDOME arena, the latter hosting championship matches each evening. Lafayette had been chosen to host the event by a unanimous vote from organizers.

Cape Express Beach Blast Sand Soccer Tournament
Morey’s Piers and Waterfront Beach Parks
Wildwood, New Jersey

Total Room Nights: 7,093
Total Economic Impact: $3,671,153

Cape Express Beach Blast Sand Soccer Tournament, a two-day event in June, was so successful, with 11,500 spectators who attended in addition to the teams, that a second event, MORE Beach Blast, was added in July. According to organizers, Beach Blast transformed that last weekend in June to one of the most important revenue-producing times of the entire summer season, selling out hotels and filling up restaurants, retail shops and gas stations with guests who traveled to the island specifically for that tournament.

2017 National Theatre on Ice Competition
Evansville Sports Corporation
Evansville, Indiana

Total Room Nights: 5,500
Total Economic Impact: $3,400,000

A week-long US Figure Skating-sanctioned event, the National Theatre on Ice Competition gave Evansville the opportunity to showcase two different venues – the New Ford Center and the Swonder Ice Rink – in hosting both practices and competitive events. Competition included 80 teams and 1,700 individuals who performed in various disciplines, including a Special Olympics division. The event outperformed organizers’ expectations with a 14 percent increase in the market for the week. A total of 3,500 spectators attended the event, and 300 volunteers supported it.

Sports Force Parks 4th of July Fireworks Classic
Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center located
in the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Region
Sandusky, Ohio

Total Room Nights: 1,805
Total Economic Impact: $2,760,264

According to organizers, the Sports Force Parks 4th of July Fireworks Classic was the most highly attended event of the year. The tournament took what was already a popular weekend for the nearby Cedar Point theme park, and transformed it into a platform to introduce families to the area and all its attractions. Feedback was universally positive, with many individuals saying they would make the tournament a family tradition, and others saying they planned to return to explore the area itself.

Photo courtesy of Allison Rohrbaugh, HHSE
US Junior Nationals Hershey Showcase
Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority
Hershey/Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Total Room Nights: 4,500-plus
Total Economic Impact: $2,700,000

US Junior Nationals, one of the longest-running organizations in girls’ basketball nationwide, has presented the US Junior Nationals Hershey Showcase with year-over year growth. The event hosts play in age groups from U9 to U17 and additionally, is a Division I/II/III/NAIA/JC college coach viewing event that sees strong attendance from coaches and program scouts. In 2017 alone, participating teams came from 15 states and Canada. More than 4,000 spectators attended the event, and more than 100 volunteers were required to help put it on.

Photo courtesy of RonAtkins
Little League Senior League Softball World Series
Delaware World Series Committee of Little League International
Roxana, Delaware

Total Room Nights: 700
Total Economic Impact: $2,000,000

The Little League Senior League Softball World Series is an example of a winning combination: a great location (a beach resort area), a popular time (August) – and a major sporting event that attracts visitors from around the world. The event, covered by ESPN and sanctioned by Little League International, brought in more than 14,000 visitors. It has shown year-over-year growth of about two percent, and continues to draw interest. About 100 volunteers supported organizers in putting on the event.

Sports Tourism – Series Events

Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
USSSA Global World Series –
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Total Room Nights: 54,010
Total Economic Impact: $64,153,560

Since 2009, the USSSA Global World Series has grown from two World Series events resulting in $9.52 economic impact and 8,013 room nights, to six World Series events resulting in $64.15 million economic impact and 54,010 room nights. In 2017, the event drew nearly 380,000 individuals over six weeks. In addition, this amount of activity facilitates upgrades to the area’s sports facilities, which improves the quality of recreation for local children in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

United States Hockey League Development Series
Phase I, II & III Combines
Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau
Orland Park, Illinois

Total Room Nights: 1,416
Total Economic Impact: $1,013,650

More than 3,100 spectators, almost all of them from out outside the state of Illinois, attended this event. Players who were invited to attend the combines were pre-screened and scouted by USHL Development staff and officials. Participating athletes were given the opportunity to showcase their skills while playing in front of USHL coaches and scouts, as well as in front of NCAA coaches. The event was held in three segments during the month of April.

Innovations in Sports Tourism

Photo courtesy of Bruce Morser
Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce
Vashon Island, Washington

Total Room Nights: 30
Total Economic Impact: $100,000

Passport2Pain, a bicycle ride across Vashon Island, is an example of the little economic engine that could. It started as a simple training ride for the Vashon Island Rowing Club, but after seeing the interest the event drew, organizers decided to open it to the public. Over the past seven years, the ride has been a driver for cycle tourism on the island. To put this growth into perspective, the island, with its population of 10,000, is accessible only by ferry and lacks a major hotel.

2017 Southern Zone Age Group Championship

Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tupelo, Mississippi

Total Room Nights: 1,900
Total Economic Impact: $565,166

The Southern Zone Age Group Championship makes a tremendous impact on the small market of Tupelo, which has a population of 39,000. The event, which brings in at least 600 swimmers and an additional 30-plus coaches, also attracts about 500 spectators. Event organizers say the first-rate facilities of the Tupelo Aquatic Center, combined with the city’s hospitality, afford the city the ability to continue to win event bids from USA Swimming.    SDM

Sports Destination Management congratulates this year’s winners.
We are proud to see our industry represented by such an
outstanding showcase of events.

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