Nov 19, 2018 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Sports Destination Management is proud to announce the 2018 “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. Some also represent innovative events, including home-grown competitions with benefits that go well beyond simple economic impact. All 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.

Large-Market Champions

Photo Courtesy of NCAA Photos
2018 NCAA Final Four
San Antonio Sports / San Antonio Local Organizing Committee

Location: San Antonio, Texas
Total Room Nights: 38,000
Total Economic Impact: $185,000,000

The NCAA Men’s Final Four attracted more than 90,000 out-of-town visitors, filled the Alamodome with more than 68,000 fans for each of the semifinal games and championship game, and showcased the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and Hemisfair to 200,000 fans who participated in the NCAA Fan Fest and March Madness Music Festival. It also highlighted the destination to over 97 million television viewers from 180 countries and contributed to San Antonio being awarded another Men’s Final Four in 2025 and Women’s Final Four in 2021.

2018 NFL Draft
Dallas Sports Commission

Location: Dallas, Texas
Total Room Nights: Over 25,000
Total Economic Impact: $125,200,000

The NFL Draft in Dallas realized a $30.2 million increase in economic impact over the previous year’s event in Philadelphia. The total economic impact (which included $74 million in direct spending) is a new record for the NFL Draft; never before had it gone over $100 million. A record crowd of more than 100,000 fans attended the opening day of the Draft and the NFL Draft Experience, making it the highest-ever opening day of the Draft held in any city.

2018 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships
Visit Orlando

Location: Orlando, Florida
Total Room Nights: 112,000
Total Economic Impact: $91,000,000

The 2018 AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships showed an increase of 320 teams over that of its 2017 event. Although it retains its Guinness Book of World Records title as the world’s biggest volleyball tournament, playing games on 166 courts in the Orange County Convention Center, it also has a strong charitable component. AAU has partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere to pack meals for underserved youth in the community as part of the AAU Cares initiative. In addition, teams raise money for stage IV breast cancer research.

Photo courtesy of the Honda Classic
The Honda Classic
Palm Beach County Sports Commission

Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Total Room Nights: 9,224
Total Economic Impact: $40,369,200

The Honda Classic, an event on the PGA TOUR, took place in February at the PGA National Resort & Spa and was the only PGA TOUR stop in South Florida. It attracted, 224,642 confirmed spectators over the seven-day event (including practice rounds) which was a 10 percent increase over 2017. It also generated $4 million more in economic impact over 2017. (Destination officials note the Honda Classic featured the return of Tiger Woods, which attracted additional attention and attendance.) The event also awarded $3.63 million to 133 organizations benefitting children.

Photo courtesy of Ed Sparks
Austin Marathon presented by Under Armour
City of Austin

Location: Austin, Texas
Total Room Nights: 1,616
Total Economic Impact: $37,500,000

The Austin Marathon, which draws 15,000 athletes from 50 states and 35 countries, continues to grow annually; in fact, in 2018, it grew 8 percent ($3.1 million) over its 2017 predecessor. Organizers note economic impact is not derived solely from participants and spectators (of which it attracts 70,000). A total of 95 percent of spending is localized, meaning investment in Austin’s businesses and companies. Austin Gives Miles, the official charity program, raised more than $870,000 for 31 Central Texas charities.

Photo courtesy of © Disney as to any Intellectual Property
Pop Warner Super Bowl & National Cheer
& Dance Championships
ESPN Wide World of Sports and Disney Sports

Location: Kissimmee, Florida
Total Room Nights: More than 20,000
Total Economic Impact: More than $8,000,000

This is the largest youth football and cheer event staged in the United States by Pop Warner, with more than 9,700 participants coming from not only the USA but from as far away as Finland and the United Arab Emirates to compete. In addition, there was a turnstile count of more than 50,000 coming into the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The event, which was held the first week of December, received support from the Mid-Florida Pop Warner Conference and from Disney Sports.

Photo courtesy of SportsPITTSBURGH
Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Total Room Nights: 10,996
Total Economic Impact: $5,465,687

Between 2016 and 2018, the event’s attendance grew 13 percent, while its economic impact grew 22 percent. Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest attracts more than 500 AAU basketball teams to play on 36 courts in one venue, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Teams, fans and college coaches came from 30 states to see the event and watch some of the nation’s top young talent. The event garners revenue and attention for the city, as well as room night sales.

Photo courtesy of James Hamblin
GPS Memorial Day Tournament
Massachusetts Sports Marketing Office

Location: Massachusetts (multiple venues)
Total Room Nights: 6,000
Total Economic Impact: $5,000,000

Organizers note this event has become the largest youth soccer tournament in North America, if not the world, with 1,050 teams playing. The event experienced 30 percent growth from 2017 to 2018. The economic impact also grew between $1 and 1.5 million over that same period. More than 23,000 spectators attend the event, which uses more than 100 fields throughout the state. It has also pressed fields into service as far away as New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The average visitor spend was tracked at $215 in 2018.

MID-Market Champions

Photo courtesy of CRVA
2018 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Total Room Nights: 31,270
Total Economic Impact: $50,500,000

The CIAA tournament is the third-largest annual collegiate event in the country. The men’s and women’s tournaments are held together, with all games played at both the Bojangles Auditorium and the Spectrum Center, home of the Charlotte Hornets. The tournament is a homecoming for the conference’s 12 institutions and averages over 100,000 fans. Ancillary events such as Middle School and High School Education Day impact over 5,000 students, as does a Career Expo. A minority business symposium, alumni gatherings and Toyota Fan Fest generate additional interest and revenue.

2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games
Catch Des Moines

Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Total Room Nights: 30,000
Total Economic Impact: $28,000,000

The event had humble beginnings in 1967 with two sports: track & field and swimming. Now in its 52nd year, it has expanded to be the largest youth multi-sport event in the country this year. It hosts competition in approximately 20 sports, including not just track & field and swimming but pickleball, baton twirling, trampoline, wrestling, karate, jump rope, tumbling, sport stacking and more. Des Moines has hosted this event, which has 40,000 spectators, five times to date.

Photo courtesy of FLW Outdoors
2017 Forrest Wood Cup
Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board

Location: Capital City/Lake Murray, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 15,681
Total Economic Impact: $20,775,957

The Forrest Wood Cup, which took place in early fall, aired on World Fishing Network and was broadcast to more than 564 million households nationwide, resulting in excellent exposure for both the destination and the event itself, as well as the sport of bass fishing as a whole. The three-day event benefitted youth fishing and additionally showcased regional barbecue chefs. The average visitor spend was tracked at $304.12 per person. More than 68,000 spectators attended this event, which featured 1,900 anglers.

Photo courtesy of Lucas Carter/The American Legion
The American Legion World Series
Shelby, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce

Location: Shelby, North Carolina
Total Room Nights: 1,500
Total Economic Impact: $16,000,000

The American Legion World Series has a significant impact on the tourism economy of Cleveland County, North Carolina. The seven-day tournament incorporates a kickoff street festival and a major outdoor concert, both held in the week prior to the event. This tournament is the culmination of the largest U19 baseball program in the U.S. It draws nationwide media attention and is televised on ESPN. More than 150 athletes participated in the event, as well as 50,000 tourists. It has grown between five and 10 percent year-over-year in economic impact.

Kevin Leclaire, UltiPhotos. www.ultiphotos.com
WFDF 2018 World Ultimate Club Championships
Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Location: Lebanon, Ohio
Total Room Nights: 14,860
Total Economic Impact: $10,558,496

The World Ultimate Club Championships, sanctioned by the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) made an enormous impact on the host community, according to the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The event had an average visitor spend of $2,000 and used more than 550 volunteers. Officials at the CVB noted the championship, 10 days in duration, “really moved the needle in a variety of places and showcased what sports tourism can do to benefit our mid-market community in a huge way.”

Gulf Coast Challenge Powered by the Mobile Sports Authority
Mobile Sports Authority

Location: Mobile, Alabama
Total Room Nights: 2,000 to 3,000
Total Economic Impact: $6,000,000 to $8,000,000

Officials at the Mobile Sports Authority has stated this event is by far the largest (in both attendance and economic impact) they have ever hosted. They note this is significant because in the past, Mobile had hosted an annual HCBU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) game for 35 years but it faded away in 2009. To re-establish this event was important to Mobile and and to Mobile County, whose goal it is to grow this into one of the area’s biggest annual events.

2018 Jam On It Reno AAU Memorial Day Tournament
Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority

Location: Reno, Nevada
Total Room Nights: 8,000
Total Economic Impact: $4,620,000

Jam On It is the host of the largest basketball tournament under one roof, with 85 courts set up under the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. A total of 2,275 games are played over the course of three days. More than 1,200 amateur youth basketball teams (865 boys, 335 girls) totaling 15,000 athletes (along with 30,000 spectators) come from Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico over the Memorial Day weekend. The event has become a summer kick-off tradition for teams and families.

Photo courtesy of Michael Gauthier
Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships
Collier County Visitors Bureau

Location: Naples, Florida
Total Room Nights: 9,429
Total Economic Impact: $4,500,000

This event, now in its third year, has grown annually and sells out within hours of opening its registration website. Using a core group of 300 volunteers, the event includes not only competition on every court in Naples Community Park but a trade show. The event draws players both nationally and internationally. Bolstered by the success of this event, the county has made a decision to build a multi-million-dollar sports complex to welcome even more sports tourism to the area.

Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon & 5K
Savannah Sports Council

Location: Savannah, Georgia
Total Room Nights: 4,559
Total Economic Impact: $4,175,813

This event was designed to cater to one of Savannah’s most popular group of travelers: women on a girls’ getaway weekend. The boutique race focused on creating an upscale experience for each participant and showcased local brands and shops. As a result, the event has grown an astounding $1,327,593 in economic impact over the previous year and local merchants told organizers it was one of their busiest weekends of the year. Nearly 2,500 athletes participated in the race, with an average visitor spend tracked at $732.47.

Photo courtesy of Rutherford County CVB
2018 TSSAA Spring Fling
Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Location: Rutherford County, Tennessee
(held at 13 sites countywide)
Total Room Nights: 3,000
Total Economic Impact: $3,500,000

Since 2006, the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau staff has worked closely with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) to host the Olympic-style sports event. Spring Fling is the Tennessee high school championships in five sports: baseball, softball, soccer, track & field and tennis. A total of 40 host site directors work together in planning all events and approximately 1,000 community volunteers help make them happen. There are 5,000 athletes and 25,000 spectators. Many visiting coaches, impressed by what they see, will return to bring spin-off tournaments to the area.

SMALL-Market Champions

Crossroads of America College Showcase
City of Westfield, Hamilton County Tourism and Sports Indiana

Location: Westfield, Indiana
Total Room Nights: 9,423
Total Economic Impact: $30,033,744

The Crossroads of America Showcase is fast becoming the “premier showcase in the Midwest.” More than 5,000 athletes and 35,000 spectators attended this year – particularly significant when one considers Westfield’s population of approximately 40,000. Approximately 70 percent of the teams are from out of state, with average daily visitor spend tracked at $206. The three-day event, which has become a fixture on teams’ calendars, requires more than 280 volunteers to stage and present successfully. Organizers say Grand Park’s excellent facilities are a key factor in the event’s success.

Photo courtesy of Jody White/FLW
Visit Hot Springs

Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Total Room Nights: 1,953
Total Economic Impact: $24,469,765

The Forrest Wood Cup, which took place in August of 2018, drew more than 66,000 fans and anglers to Hot Springs to watch the world’s best anglers compete on Lake Ouachita. The FLW Expo also came to the Hot Springs Convention Center, drawing hundreds of exhibitors with not just gear but family-friendly activities and games. The event was such a success that FLW announced Hot Springs will host the event again in 2019, making it the first city to host back-to-back Cups in the FLW Tour’s history.

Grand Slam Baseball World Series
Visit Panama City Beach

Location: Panama City Beach, Florida
Total Room Nights: 24,734
Total Economic Impact: $16,705,696

Visit Panama City Beach notes the Grand Slam World Series of Baseball has enjoyed year-over-year growth in enrollment. This year, 356 teams participated – an increase over the 2017 total of 324. The four weeks of tournament play brought in nearly 5,000 athletes and more than 12,000 spectators and resulted in a noticeable bump in business in restaurants, hotels and attractions in the area. Other organizations contributing to the success of the event were the City of Panama Beach and Panama City Beach Parks and Recreation.

Photo courtesy of Golf Tourism Solutions
PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur
City of Myrtle Beach

Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 22,000
Total Economic Impact: $14,300,000

The PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur, created to give the everyday golfer a forum for enjoyable competition, is a tourism-driven event created to stimulate the Myrtle Beach Community. It hosts over 3,100 participants, with golf courses and hotels, as well as local businesses such as restaurants and stores, also benefitting. Year over year, the economic impact of the event has grown by $250,000. A 78-person volunteer staff is involved with planning and implementation of the World Am and the average visitor spend is tracked at $184 per person, per day.

Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach
NTBA Boys National Championship (3rd-8th Grades)
Visit Myrtle Beach

Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 6,000
Total Economic Impact: $3,902,331

Organizers attribute the strong attendance at this event to the attractiveness of its location, since Myrtle Beach is a favorite family vacation destination and the July event date allows travel teams to close out their season and celebrate at the beach. In addition to using the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, the event takes up nine additional gyms. In 2018, the NTBA Boys National Championships brought in approximately 3,500 athletes and 10,000 spectators, with an estimated visitor spend of $155 per person.

Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) State Tournament Championship
Branson Chamber and Convention & Visitors Bureau

Location: Branson, Missouri
Total Room Nights: 7,491
Total Economic Impact: $3,890,912

Archery, a niche sport that has gained tremendous popularity among youth athletes nationwide, was showcased at this event. Organizers say the competition also allowed the host organization to demonstrate its commitment to youth, education, volunteerism, partnership and long-term growth. The event drew more than 3,100 athletes and used a core group of 100 volunteers. A strong cadre of sponsors – representing vendors on not only a national level but from within the local community – also contributed to the event’s success.

Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
NAIA Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track & Field National Championships
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission and City of Gulf Shores

Location: Gulf Shores, Alabama
Total Room Nights: 2,929
Total Economic Impact: $3,107,887

The championships, which returned again to Gulf Shores, brought a $70,000 increase in economic impact over the 2017 event. More than 1,200 athletes attended what has become a tradition, thanks to the host community’s commitment to providing “a full coastal Alabama experience” and its commitment to encourage extended stays once the event has concluded. The average visitor spend was tracked at $777.80 per room night. The host community also cites ongoing investments in track and field facilities as a key to keeping the championships in town.

2018 Maverik National Lacrosse Classic
Delaware Sports Commission and Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Location: Frederica, Delaware
Total Room Nights: 8,000
Total Economic Impact: $3,000,000

The Maverik National Lacrosse Classic drew 3,000 spectators and 2,000 athletes in grades 5 through 12 from 20 states and Canada to enjoy a world-class event that is now in its twelfth year. The event, which offers an extremely high level of competition, also provides athletes with exposure to 200-plus college coaches. In addition, the Classic is unique in its ability to offer a vendor village, guest speakers, and eSports area to provide interesting diversions when athletes are not on the field.

Photo Courtesy of Earl Campbell
Governor’s Challenge
Wicomico County Recreation, Parks & Tourism

Location: Salisbury, Maryland
Total Room Nights: 1,707
Total Economic Impact: $2,847,942

The Governor’s Challenge is the largest holiday basketball tournament in the country as well as one of the most respected events of its kind, bringing in more than 120 teams from over 15 states (from as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida) during a commonly quiet period in December. This is a homegrown event and following a rebranding in 2012, it has grown year over year, with annual increases continuing to be anticipated. It has also earned publicity from national media platforms.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Sports
2018 USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships
Visit Hagerstown and Washington County CVB/Maryland Sports

Location: Hagerstown, Maryland
Total Room Nights: 1,300
Total Economic Impact: $2,632,000

The 2018 USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships, a first-year event in a rural area, exceeded the expectations of rights holders, destination and athletes alike. The late July event, in which a total of 975 cyclists participated, used a core group of 210 volunteers to administer and implement all facets of the event. The event, which showed approximately $752,000 in direct spending, had a high rate of satisfaction among all those involved and resulted in economic impact that was far stronger than originally estimated.

Photo courtesy of Greene County Partnership Sports Council
2018 National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division III World Series
Greene County Partnership Tourism/Sports Council

Location: Greeneville, Tennessee
Total Room Nights: 1,700
Total Economic Impact: $2,200,000

Destination officials say this event has shed a light on Greene County that no advertising can reach, giving it a nationwide reputation as the home of the Division III World Series. The series draws 260 athletes and 2,000 non-local spectators and sees year-over-year growth of $500,000. The average visitor spend is $125 and officials say the tournament impacts not only Greene County but also Johnson, Washington and Hamblen counties. Trivia point: Tusculum University, which hosts the action, just signed a shortstop from one of the participating junior colleges.

Photo Courtesy of Ron Atkins
Little League Senior League Softball World Series
Delaware Sports Commission and Delaware Tourism

Location: Roxana, Delaware
Total Room Nights: 800
Total Economic Impact: $2,000,000

The Senior Softball World Series is one of nine Little League events held nationwide. It is the largest international youth sporting event held in Delaware and attracts interest worldwide. Its economic impact extends beyond Delaware and into Maryland, with an average estimated visitor spend of $1,500. A total of 150 athletes are supported by an enormous spectator crowd (between 12,000 and 15,000). The event has grown about five percent year over year and requires a core group of 100 volunteers to produce each time.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Hollis
2018 NCAA Division I Baseball Regional - Greenville, NC
Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Location: Greenville, North Carolina
Total Room Nights: 1,000
Total Economic Impact: $1,800,000

The NCAA Division I Baseball Regional drew 120 athletes and 30,000 spectators. The event unfortunately had a rain delay that lasted over six hours, but destination officials note the fans of the four teams in play (East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Ohio State University and the University of South Carolina) returned to cheer on their teams once the storms ended. Additionally, there was a recorded visitor spend of $160 per person, invested in local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

Innovations in Sports Tourism

Photo courtesy of Laurie Tisdale
GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods
Visit Anderson and VisitGreenvilleSC

Locations: Anderson and Greenville, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 7,030
Total Economic Impact: $18,165,500

Two destinations worked together on this event. Lake Hartwell in Anderson was the fishing venue, while Bon Secours Wellness Arena and TD Convention Center in Greenville hosted weigh-in and the expo. This is the third time the event has been held in South Carolina. Hotel occupancy was at 87 percent – an increase of 10 percent over typical use. The event also brought in more than 200 national media representatives, including ESPN and ESPN3 providing live coverage, and garnered significant online viewing and social media impressions.

Photo courtesy of Chris McClintick
2017 US Junior Open Squash Championships
Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau

Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Total Room Nights: 700
Total Economic Impact: $1,300,000

The 2017 US Junior Open Squash Championships, the largest individual squash tournament in the world, provided economic stimulus to the area during a traditionally slow time for hotels and restaurants, and has continued to do so for the past three years. Officials at US Squash note the event was held on the courts of Yale University as well as Hartford (Trinity College) , Middletown ( Wesleyan University) and Windsor Locks (Loomis Chaffee). It drew 1,000 athletes and 2,500 spectators.

Photo courtesy of Mike Ford
Waupaca Boatride Volleyball Tournament
Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau

Location: Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Total Room Nights: 125 Hotel Rooms/500 Campsites Per Night
Total Economic Impact: $1,100,000

The Waupaca Boatride, also known as the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball, is a grass-surface tournament, held each July. The event, which moved to Oshkosh in 2010, has grown 17 percent year over year. It brings back players who enjoy the ‘family reunion’ atmosphere, and who compete in men’s women’s and juniors’ divisions. Junior skill clinics, as well as Friday and Saturday night entertainment have been added over the years, increasing the appeal of the event. Spending has been tracked at $156 per person, per day.

Photo courtesy of DesignLab
Millinocket Marathon and Half
Maine Sports Commission

Location: Millinocket, Maine
Total Room Nights: Every room in Northern Maine was booked
Total Economic Impact: $200,000 to $250,000

The Millinocket Marathon and Half, a longstanding tradition in Maine, began as a free event to help a struggling Maine town that had been devastated by the closing of a huge paper mill, one of its only employers. Over the years, the event has grown and has come to include a strong mindset of runners ‘paying it forward’ by contributing to two local charities, eating in the area’s remaining restaurants, patronizing local companies, tipping generously and generally supporting the area.

Photo courtesy of Placer Valley Tourism
Women’s West Coast Tournament of Champions Presented by Cliff Keen
Placer Valley Tourism

Location: Rocklin, California
Total Room Nights: 123
Total Economic Impact: $139,992

The Women’s West Coast Tournament of Champions (WWCTOC), a home-grown event, has experienced marked growth in three years. It began as a wrestling tournament for high school girls – a few college recruiters also attended – and it generated only 39 room nights. By 2016, a women’s collegiate division was added and growth skyrocketed. Now, the event has a powerhouse sponsor and sees competition from 64 high schools, 18 colleges, 10 states and Canada. Additionally, its timing (during shoulder season) provides much-needed business to area hotels and restaurants. SDM

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