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Amazon’s Expansions: What Can Two New HQ Cities Mean to Sports Tourism?

28 Nov, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The announcement that Amazon has selected two cities – Long Island City, New York, and Arlington, Virginia – to split its HQ2 dropped like a bomb on the economic development world this month.

So it’s up to sports tourism to ask the next logical question: what’s in it for us?

A lot, obviously. Over approximately the next decade, Amazon intends to hire as many as 25,000 people in each location, who will earn, on average, $150,000 a year. That’s a lot of jobs at an excellent income and could make for a lot of people coming in – bringing with them a healthy amount to spend on sports. And if a good percentage of those people are families, it also benefits youth sports.

Economic growth brings potential to drive cities to invest in (or invest more in) sports infrastructure. It also makes cities more desirable as tourist hot sports. So what are tourists, specifically those with interests in sports, find in each area, and what are they likely to demand? What are these areas already hosting? And what are event owners likely to find when they go investigating these areas as possible host sites? The following is a synopsis. SDM expects to see more development ahead, and it is likely this subject will be revisited as the years progress.

Long Island City’s hometown CVB is the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau in Hauppauge, New York. In addition to being home to the NHL Islanders and the MiLB Ducks, there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to find facilities – or just live near a place that brings in sports that interest them.

If you want to go by sports facilities, the place has an impressive pedigree. It is, after all, the home of the NEFCU Long Island Marathon and Running Festival, to be contested next in May 2019. (Road and trail racing events seeking volunteers can expect to find them through the Greater Long Island Running Club, which hosts a number of events annually.)

Cycling events include the Ride to Montauk, Long Island Bike Challenge and the Muddy Tire MTB Race.

Bethpage State Park has five 18-hole public courses designed by A.W. Tillinghast and Alfred Tull; those courses host more than 300,000 rounds annually). In fact, the Bethpage Black Course will host both the 2019 PGA Championship and the 2024 Ryder Cup. It was also the site of the 2009 U.S. Open.

Bethpage Park also offers its polo fields which have an active schedule, thanks to its hometown Bethpage Park Polo Club. In 2018, the fields hosted the North East Cup (June 2-24); Old Westbury Cup (June 30 – July 29); Meadowbrook Cup (July 31-August 19) and the New York Open (August 25-September 16).

And of course, this is Long Island, after all – a coastal destination. Three tournaments, the Montauk Classic, South Shore Surf Fishing Classic and the Babylon Autumn Surf Fishing Cup, were recently held and saw anglers competing in striped bass and bluefish divisions. The 33rd Annual Shark Tournament is already on the books for 2019.

One thing you won’t find being hosted in Long Island: a lot of outdoor winter sports. Although the area used to host skiing at a number of resorts, that has vanished into the distant past; these days, the closest venues are at least three hours away.

The profile of the city itself seems to contradict that of a golf and polo destination; in fact, according to an article in the New York Times, Long Island City is currently the site of the country’s largest public housing project. “But for many walking along the park in the area that hugs the East River, what stands out are the shiny new high-rises, baby stores, coffee shops and yoga studios. Since 2010, more apartment buildings have been built in Long Island City than in any other neighborhood in New York. Apartments in dozens of the new buildings sell for an average of over $1 million.”

Existing neighbors worry that an influx of higher-paid executives will increase the ongoing gentrification of the area to the point that it becomes too pricey for the original residents, many of whom depend upon the local park and rec department to provide sports opportunities and after-school programs for children.

The second site Amazon has chosen is something you’ll hear referred to three ways; all signify Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. The largest definition is Arlington, although the term Crystal City (a subset of Arlington) is used and the specific area the corporation has chosen is known as National Landing, another waterfront destination (not to be confused with National Harbor, a resort and attraction area in not-too-distant Prince Georges County, Maryland).

Multiple groups serve those who want to visit or plan events in the area. The Arlington Convention and Visitors Service is one of those.  Another is the Arlington County Government.

The area is rich in road race history, already hosting one section of the Marine Corps Marathon, considered a bucket-list event among endurance runners. That event, with a field of 30,000, includes runners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 50 countries. Known as "The People's Marathon," the MCM is open to all runners ages 14 and above and is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money.

Additionally, because of its proximity to Washington, DC, the area becomes a hotbed for runners to seek lodging before and after the incredibly popular Army Ten Miler (held each October) and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run which goes through the capital each spring. (Fun fact: the Cherry Blossom race is so popular – and as a result, so difficult to register for – that a Maryland running club, the Annapolis Striders, organizes a race each year for those who didn’t get in: the Cherry Pit Ten-Mile Race with the slogan, “Others may have the blossoms but we get the pits.”) Arlington is also where a great many motorcyclists find lodging during the annual Rolling Thunder ride that each May, commemorates service members of the Vietnam war.

Running event owners looking to site off-road runs can investigate Potomac Overlook Regional Park, with its trails and paths.

The streets of Arlington are also popular with cycling event organizers. The Armed Forces Cycling Classic is held in June.

The Potomac River, though not exclusively the Arlington area, is considered a top largemouth bass fishery, having hosted tournaments from Bassmaster and FLW. In addition, the 2018 Tidal Potomac Slam was held in March. There are active fishing clubs throughout where event owners can find an assortment of volunteers and enthusiasts.

While the area lacks the depth of golf – and the level of competition – found in Long Island City, there are options for golf event organizers. Venues in the area include the members-only Army Navy Country Club and the Washington Golf and Country Club. The Army Navy hosts the Annual Community Cup Golf Classic. Go a bit further out to Fairfax and options include Algonkian, Pohick Bay and Brambleton courses, which offer tournament packages.

Arlington’s park and rec department has an active soccer scene on both the youth and adult level and the Arlington Soccer Association offers programs ranging from children’s rec level all the way through a program supported by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

There are drawbacks to Arlington, however, according to the Arlington Soccer Association, which notes “Despite Arlington being one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the nation, over a third of its school-age children qualify for the federal Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program. Cost barriers, lack of transportation, unstable homes and foster situations, or other factors prevent many of these kids from participating in the multitude of youth activities available in our community. Too many children don’t even have the opportunity to simply play outside in a safe area after school. Since 2012, Arlington Soccer has partnered with the Real Madrid Foundation and Arlington Public Schools to deliver an after-school soccer and character-building program for at-risk children.”

Arlington Little League and Arlington Babe Ruth, as well as Arlington Travel Baseball are the organizations hosting youth baseball. Slightly out of the area is Fairfax, which hosts the Virginia Baseball Club, including the Arlington Senators.

The New York Times notes that while more than 200 cities nationwide had tried to woo Amazon into moving its headquarters to their locales, the two cities were ultimately chosen because of the talent they had the potential to attract. The article further notes,

“The hope over time, for the officials who made the pitch, is that Amazon will help cement their neighborhoods as destinations, with easy access to transportation, large supplies of housing and enough interesting things to do that they’ll no longer be overshadowed by Washington and Manhattan just across the water.”

And, it may prove a boon for sports tourism as more dollars are invested into the areas, raising the quality of facilities and possibly making them more attractive to event owners looking to site in an area that has a great deal of cache – and name recognition, thanks to Amazon.

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