Introducing the 2019 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism | Sports Destination Management

Introducing the 2019 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism

Nov 01, 2019 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It’s easy to define a winner as the person who winds up wearing a gold medal, hoisting a big silver trophy or bowing their head to receive a laurel wreath. But defining a champion – at least in our context – means looking at the people who have meshed their talents and their resources with those of others to realize excellence. And that is exactly what we are recognizing with our 2019 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism.

Within the context of this program, we define champions as competitions, as cities, as venues, as partnering organizations and as local organizing committees who worked together to produce events that have made our industry a more vibrant, more exciting, more varied and more interesting place. And needless to say, they have also enriched our industry – all put together, the economic impact is $1,263,562,041 (and let me just say, whew).

This year, we saw our first honorees in esports and mind sports – two areas that are helping us redefine competitions as a whole. We saw two championship events for those with physical challenges and we saw an emerging sport for women at the college level explode onto the national scene. We even saw an event that worked diligently to make sure all income stayed in the host area. You can find all these in our category for events that epitomize Innovations in Sports Tourism.

This year, we also recognize and honor some repeat champions. You’ll find them listed under the heading of Honor Roll. These are events and destination partners that have won for three or more years, and which continue to increase in economic impact, year over year.

Beyond that, there are some interesting trends. In addition to the ever-growing industry of soccer, volleyball, pickleball, basketball, wrestling, golf, baseball and softball, we have three equestrian events, two bass fishing competitions, three multi-sport competitions (two for senior athletes), a spectator-based motor sports event, a soap box derby – and a lot more. There’s even two big-city major marathons and a sand soccer tournament that went from home-grown to being a must-attend on an international scale.

All these events have a common denominator, and it’s not economic impact – or at least, not only economic impact. It’s the fact that all these events brought a sense of pride to the areas that hosted them, to the organizations that helped put them on and to all those who participated, supported, watched and rooted for these events.

And that’s just those we listed on the following pages. This year, we had twice the number of nominations for events – and judging by the fact that we had more inquiries about the awards program even weeks after the deadline had passed, the industry is showing no signs of a slowdown.

We are pleased to honor the 2019 Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism. We congratulate our winners and we thank all who participated. The industry is stronger, more resilient and more diverse because of you.

If you didn't get a chance to enter this year's awards program, please shoot me an e-mail at so that you can be added to the list for our 2020 awards. I hope to see you in the winner's circle!

Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results.
– Pat Summitt


Photo Courtesy of Amateur Athletic Union

46th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships
Visit Orlando
Location: Orlando, Florida
Total Room Nights: 117,000
Total Economic Impact: $91,000,000

The 12-day event continues its run as the largest volleyball tournament in the world, boasting a record-breaking 2,805 teams (45,000 athletes) in 2019. It also has become a premier family destination with e-gaming, recruiting seminars, merchandise booths, skills challenges and more. This year, it had 166 courts between ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Orange County Convention Center and brought hundreds of thousands of athletes and their families to the Orlando area, including international families who previously had not visited the United States.

Image courtesy of Michael Gauthier / Freedom Photography
Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships
Powered by Margaritaville
Spirit Promotions
Location: Naples, Florida
Total Room Nights: 5,322
Total Economic Impact: $5,100,000

This event has grown annually and sells out within hours of opening its registration website. Using a core group of 550 volunteers, the event includes not only competition on every court in Naples Community Park but a trade show. As a result of this event, Collier County has become known as the “Pickleball Capital of the World.” An increasing number of players and spectators are traveling to Naples throughout the year to play, and an enormous spectator group (10,000) comes to experience “the largest pickleball party on Earth.”

Photo courtesy of Jam On It
2019 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

This event is 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 (boys and girls), totaling 15,600 athletes (along with 38,000 spectators) come from Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico over the
Memorial Day weekend. This past year due to the popularity of the event, a “Shootout” tournament was added at a secondary location to accommodate overflow registrants.

Image courtesy of Jim Davis, Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation
TSSAA Spring Fling
Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Location: Rutherford County, Tennessee
Total Room Nights: 3,500
Total Economic Impact: $3,500,000

TSSAA Spring Fling Sports Championship is the only high school athletic organization in the United States to have a seven-sport, Olympic-style spring sport championship tournament for baseball, softball, track and field, team and individual tennis and soccer. It is by far the largest attended youth sports championship event in Tennessee, with 32,000 attendees this year. This event is aggressively bidded on by prospective host cities but has remained in Rutherford County since 2006 due to its ever-growing demand to host more visitors.

Photo courtesy of Ron Adkins - SBWS Official
The 2019 Little League Senior Softball World Series
The District 3 Little League World Series Committee
Location: Roxana, Delaware
Total Room Nights: 1,050
Total Economic Impact: $2,000,000

This is the largest International youth sporting event in the state of Delaware, bringing 150 under-16 female softball players to Sussex County, Delaware, for a week of championship softball. It is the 16th event to be held. Approximately 12,000 spectators and tourists attended this series, which is governed by Little League International and, on a local level, by the District 3 Little League World Series Committee. The event, which used about 100 volunteers, ran between July 29 and August 4.

Image courtesy of JXB Photography
Show Jumping Under the Stars $25,000 Grand Prix Series
Show Jumping Events
Fox Lea Farm, Inc., & Visit Sarasota
Location: Venice, Florida
Total Room Nights: 13,000
Total Economic Impact: $30,000,000

The success of this event is remarkable in that it is a relatively new event, with over 70 percent of attendees coming from out of state. Additionally, by incorporating a charity partner component, Show Jumping Under the Stars’ featured events have given many community charities a platform to raise money, raise awareness of their organizations, and broaden their volunteer and donor networks. It also has given Fox Lea Farm an opportunity to become an integral member of the Venice Community.

Amateur Baseball Championships
Bullpen Tournaments
Location: Westfield, Indiana
Total Room Nights: 8,843
Total Economic Impact: $29,882,570

ABC is quickly becoming known as a premier baseball showcase nationwide and has had tremendous economic impact on the community in only four years. With 465 teams from 13U-18U and nearly 30,000 attendees, this is the largest annual baseball event at the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana (population approx. 40,000). Grand Park, which opened in 2014 with 31 multi-purpose fields and 26 diamonds, has been an excellent location, allowing the tournament to attract 81 percent of its teams from states other than Indiana.

Photo courtesy of Charles Waldorf/FLW
2019 FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton
The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
and Visit Hot Springs
Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Total Room Nights: 20,910
Total Economic Impact: $27,480,619

The FLW Cup, held on Lake Hamilton, brought out more than 67,000 fishing fans from across 40 states to witness bass-fishing history as FLW Tour stalwart Bryan Thrift finally claimed the title that had eluded him for 13 years. FLW reports that 31 percent of attendees were classified as overnight guests, having traveled more than 75 miles to attend. The event was designed to be worth the trip, featuring an expo, seminars, a kayak and youth tournament, industry displays, a barbecue festival and a free country concert by Trace Adkins.

The 2019 Grand Slam World Series of Baseball
Visit Panama City Beach
Location: Panama City Beach, Florida
Total Room Nights: 28,000
Total Economic Impact: $17,000,000

Grand Slam Sports Tournaments LLC celebrated the 15th year of its World
Series events this past June and July. The event started out in 2004 with one week and 60 teams; it has since grown into a four-week-long event with over 400 teams from more than 20 states in attendance. Each year’s attendance and economic impact surpass those of the previous year. In 2019, the event played out at Frank Brown Park and the new Panama City Beach Sports Complex and brought in more than 25,000 spectators and tourists.

American Youth Football
Kissimmee Sports Commission
Location: Kissimmee, Florida
Total Room Nights: 18,743
Total Economic Impact: $8,226,962

The American Youth Football and Cheerleading National Championships (AYF/AYC) is the largest youth football and cheerleading organization, showing excellent year over year growth, thanks to the event’s popularity with both athletes and parents, who enjoy the event’s massive scope. More than 6,600 spectators and tourists attend each December, and 100 volunteers are involved. The event hosts competition in multiple age groups and divisions. Kissimmee Sports Commission and Osceola County Parks and Rec play a vital role in helping the event come together.

Smoky Mountain Cup
Rocky Top Sports World
Location: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Total Room Nights: 11,772
Total Economic Impact: $7,600,000

The Smoky Mountain Cup continues to grow in popularity each year. It has become a coveted destination for both boys’ and girls’ high school soccer teams nationwide. Teams now include the tournament as part of their normal schedule; the idea of playing in a tournament of this magnitude at the high school level was once unheard of. From 2018 to 2019, the event posted over $2.9 million in economic impact growth. More than 7,500 tourists and spectators attended the Smoky Mountain Cup this year, further driving its success.

2019 Dixie Youth Baseball World Series
City of Ruston-Ruston Sports Complex
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Total Room Nights: 5,188
Total Economic Impact: $6,280,799

This event hosted 76 baseball teams ages eight to 12 over a two-week period. This is the only time Dixie has hosted this many teams in one location. It brought in over 1,200 participants and over 13,000 fans into the small college town of Ruston, enabling the destination to showcase Louisiana Tech University to all the players and parents. Teams were housed in five different parishes and because they played only one game per day, there was ample time for everyone to explore the region, leading to an even greater economic footprint.

AYSO 397 Colorado River Youth Invitational Tournament
City of Bullhead City
Location: Bullhead City, Arizona
Total Room Nights: 7,200
Total Economic Impact: $3,000,000

CRIT is an invitational youth soccer tournament produced entirely by volunteers (150 of them this year alone) and is going on its 22nd year in Bullhead City. The tournament has been running at or near capacity for the past five years. CRIT has become the premier American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) soccer tournament in the Southwest. The tournament funds are reinvested into the facilities and distributed to local youths for soccer scholarships and camps. Between 100 and 150 teams, as well as 4,500 spectators and tourists, attend the event each year.

Image courtesy of Bailey Vassalli

Babe Ruth League’s Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series
Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau
Location: Branson, Missouri
Total Room Nights: 3,200
Total Economic Impact: $2,650,000

The 2019 Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series included champions from throughout the United States and nine other countries. Branson cites the event owner, Babe Ruth League, as a true community partner. As a part of the agreement, Babe Ruth League organized the donation of a 16x9 videoboard (worth $80,000) and scoreboard to Branson. This videoboard was installed at Ballparks of America, elevating sports events and allowing the community of Branson to enjoy events including outdoor movie nights and other festivities.

Image courtesy of City of Bullhead City

Bullhead City/Laughlin Senior Games
City of Bullhead City
Location: Bullhead City, Arizona
Total Room Nights: 5,000
Total Economic Impact: $2,614,031

2019 marked the third year for the Bullhead City/Laughlin Senior Games. In that time, they surpassed the Arizona State games and most of the official state games in the U.S. in size. The Games offered 14 different sporting events in two sister states: Bullhead City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada. A total of 1,100 spectators and tourists attended, and the event was made more robust by collateral activities, including opening ceremonies, athlete mixers and awards and medal presentations. There has been 25 percent growth year-over-year.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Painter, Official World Series Photographer

2019 National Junior College Athletic Association’s
DIII Baseball World Series
Greene County Sports Council
Location: Greeneville, Tennessee
Total Room Nights: 525
Total Economic Impact: $2,400,000

The 2019 NJCAA Division III World Series is one of the largest events that Greene County and its sports council has hosted. Not only did local lodging properties benefit, but also those in the adjoining counties of Washington and Hamblen. The community sees an additional economic boost to local shops, grocery stores and laundromats, as well as an increase in sales tax revenue. One unique aspect of the series is the fact that host families in the community work with participants, forming long-lasting relationships.

Image courtesy of National Sports Center-Super Rink

2018 World Broomball Championships
Twin Cities Gateway CVB/National Sports Center
Location: Blaine, Minnesota
Total Room Nights: 4,748
Total Economic Impact: $2,328,698

This unique sport has a week-long world championship that is held every two years. The event in Blaine brought in teams from 10 countries (the most ever in the history of the event), including those from as far away as Australia, Japan, India, Canada and Europe. The championships set records at the Super Rink for the championship day attendance. More than 100 volunteers helped support the championships, and visitors spent an average of nine days each in town, creating excellent economic impact.

CIAA Men’s & Women’s Basketball Tournament
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Total Room Nights: 23,000
Total Economic Impact: $43,700,000

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association kept its basketball tournament in Charlotte for 14 years, with economic impact ranging from $43.7 million to $50 million annually. Approximately 125,000 spectators attend the event, which also includes a Hall of Fame Breakfast, step shows, a fan fest and a career expo. It continues to be the third-largest annual athletic event in the country behind the NCAA and the ACC tournaments and is a cultural phenomenon that attracts alumni, fans and spectators to a week-long celebration of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) within the CIAA.

2019 National Senior Games Presented by Humana
City of Albuquerque 2019 National Senior Games Local
Organizing Committee
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Total Room Nights: 24,000
Total Economic Impact: $34,000,000

In addition to generating outstanding economic impact, the 2019 National Senior Games brought together the entire State of New Mexico, working with organizations and volunteers statewide. This was the second-largest event to ever be hosted not only in the city of Albuquerque but also in the state of New Mexico as well. A total of 25,000 spectators and tourists attended, and another 5,000 volunteers helped the event come together. Multiple ancillary activities helped raise awareness – and economic impact as well, including a trade show, celebration of athletes, movie Monday.

Photo courtesy of Bruce McCamish Photography
2019 Bassmaster Classic
Visit Knoxville Sports Commission
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Total Room Nights: 29,000
Total Economic Impact: $32,200,000

B.A.S.S. saw a record total of 153,809 spectators and tourists (from all 50 states and several countries) for this event, including a crowd of 6,500 who came on Saturday alone to watch take-offs at Volunteer Landing on the Tennessee River. The Visit Knoxville Sports Commission worked with the City of Knoxville and Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to enlarge the boat ramps at Ned McWherter Park in time for the competition, an effort that left a lasting positive impact on the quality of life for Knox County residents while expanding the options for visitor enjoyment and additional event recruitment.

Photo courtesy of Greensboro CVB
2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games
Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau
Location: Greensboro, North Carolina
Total Room Nights: 27,000
Total Economic Impact: $31,843,000

The 53rd AAU Junior Olympic Games was hosted for the first time by the city of Greensboro, bringing 18,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators to the town. This set a record as the largest multi-sport event in the nation. A total of 14 different sports were contested in the 11-day event, with AAU Track and Field as the largest event, breaking a record with 13,601 athletes participating at the BB&T Stadium. More than 600 volunteers assisted with the Games, which also featured a racewalking skills clinic and a cornhole demonstration.

2018 Pennsylvania National Horse Show
Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Total Room Nights: 12,915
Total Economic Impact: $9,700,000

The Pennsylvania National Horse Show is one of the nation’s largest indoor equine events, spanning 10 days and covering nearly every inch of the 1 million-square-foot Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. In addition to attracting the nation’s most talented riders (including Olympians) in multiple disciplines, the event champions special-needs riders and the importance of the therapeutic riding programs. The 2018 Therapeutic Riding Championship awards were presented in the center ring by Olympian and world champion equestrians.

2019 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball First/Second Rounds - Columbia, SC
Experience Columbia SC Sports
Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 5,783
Total Economic Impact: $7,003,693

Hosting the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament March 21-24 was no small feat for Experience Columbia SC Sports, requiring at least a year of planning and regular, monthly meetings with community partners. The event, which had a total attendance over three sessions of more than 47,000, was aired on CBS and seen by 12.88 million. Friday night hotel occupancy was 90.9 percent for the region (which includes more than 11,000 rooms). In addition, more than 30 community events were planned around town in support of the tournament.

Image courtesy of VISIT Milwaukee
U.S. Junior Nationals 2019 Windy City Classic
VISIT Milwaukee
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Total Room Nights: 2,700
Total Economic Impact: $4,500,000

The Windy City Classic, hosted in Milwaukee for the first time in 2019, created a broad range of positive impact throughout the destination, both downtown and suburban, including restaurants, facilities and hotels. Approximately 7,000 spectators and tourists attended the three-day event as well, with an average visitor spend of $457. Two host facilities were employed: the Wisconsin Center District and the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center. In addition, the tournament created a positive impact on individuals, by creating and endorsing an active and healthy environment for girls.

Photo courtesy of International Soap Box Derby
FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships
Akron/Summit CVB
Location: Akron, Ohio
Total Room Nights: 2,350
Total Economic Impact: $4,320,000

The Soap Box Derby® has been held continuously at the purpose-built venue of Derby Downs in Akron since the year 1946. The Derby carries strong messages supporting youth development, celebrating excellence, and the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to building and racing the “gravity-driven” cars. The event’s ancillary activities include a Parade of Champions, Rock the Rec & Badge Trading Event, the Opening Ceremony, AAA Local Challenges, All-Star Race and Parents Race, as well as the Topside Show Open House, and a Build & Battle Competition.


Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament 2019
Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Total Room Nights: 4,750
Total Economic Impact: $3,900,000

Not only did the SEC bring plenty of athletes and personnel but they (along with media and others) arrived early (sometimes as soon as Sunday on a week where play did not begin until Wednesday), creating an enormous collateral impact. The entire tournament was televised; the first, second and third rounds by the SEC Network, ESPNU broadcast the two semifinal games on Saturday evening and ESPN broadcast the Championship game on Sunday, all generating increased awareness of Greenville. A Fan Fest also contributed to the event as a whole.

GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Championships
Visit Macon
Location: Macon, Georgia
Total Room Nights: 4,797
Total Economic Impact: $3,393,716

This event doubled its economic impact since last year, thanks to forward-thinking organizers. The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) recognized the growing number of girls participating in wrestling and added a girls’ division to the state championship event. Previously, girls wrestled against boys and were included in the same competitions at the same weight classes. The addition of the girls’ bracket brought with it an additional day of the championship, leading to 3,920 additional spectators and 168 additional athletes. GHSA was recognized by USA Wrestling for their efforts with women’s wrestling.


Image courtesy of New York Road Runners
TCS New York City Marathon
New York Road Runners
Location: New York, New York
Total Room Nights: Not able to be compiled
Total Economic Impact: $415,000,000

Each year, New York Road Runners works closely with city agencies and partners to produce the largest marathon in the world. This iconic annual event takes runners throughout five boroughs as more than one million spectators cheer them on for their 26.2-mile journey. The event brings more than 52,000 runners from all over the world and is an economic driver for the city, bringing in $415 million annually. NYRR relies on a whopping 12,000 volunteers to put on the event, which involves multiple agencies in several jurisdictions.

Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/University of Minnesota
2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four®
Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee,
University of Minnesota, Sports Minneapolis
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Total Room Nights: 270,000
Total Economic Impact: $156,400,000

The Final Four took place during a non-peak travel time for the Minneapolis region, setting the city up for significant economic impact. Multiple ancillary activities also contributed to the bottom line, including Fan Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Reese’s Final Four Friday (an opportunity for fans to see the Final Four teams in their final open practice before the national semifinal games), the Reese’s College All-Star Game, NCAA Final Four Dribble, tailgate parties, pep rallies, the March Madness® Music Series and other events.

Image courtesy of SPORTFOT
Winter Equestrian Festival
Palm Beach County Sports Commission
Location: Wellington, Florida
Total Room Nights: 125,805
Total Economic Impact: $75,000,000

The Winter Equestrian Festival is the largest annual sporting event in Palm Beach County, as well as the longest running equestrian event in the world. The event hosted 6,600+ horses and 5,000 riders from all 50 states and 51 nations. Participants competed in hunter, jumper and dressage classifications with prize money exceeding $9 million. The substantial purse prize attracted Olympic-class and international riders. It was also a premier show for children, juniors, adults and amateurs, offering skill clinics, as well as the annual meeting of the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

Image courtesy of Pat Wong
Ascension Seton Austin Marathon presented by Under Armour
High Five Events
Location: Austin, Texas
Total Room Nights: 12,341
Total Economic Impact: $48,530,173

This 29-year-old marathon has a far-reaching reputation, attracting runners globally; in 2019, 38 countries and all 50 states were represented. The economic impact also continues to grow, but so does the impact of the marathon on the community. About 95 percent of spending is localized, and Austin Gives Miles, the official charity, raised more than
$1 million for 28 central Texas charities. High Five Events, which owns and directs the race, was founded in Austin, and loves to be part of an event that gives back.


Image courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc.
Monster Jam World Finals XX
Greater Orlando Sports Commission
Location: Orlando, Florida
Total Room Nights: 53,000
Total Economic Impact: $40,000,000

In addition to an elite field of competitors, the two-day event provides an influx of spectators to the host region. The 2019 event drew a total attendance of more than 100,000 fans from 47 states and four countries who traveled to Orlando to experience Monster Jam’s flagship event. In addition to the two-day Pit Party and main events hosted at Camping World Stadium, an awards show was hosted at Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios Orlando and Monster Jam trucks appeared throughout Central Florida.

Image courtesy of Dallas Sports Commission
Dr Pepper Dallas Cup
Dallas Sports Commission
Location: Dallas, Texas
Total Room Nights: 9,284
Total Economic Impact: $38,200,000

The Dr Pepper Dallas Cup, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, is held every Easter weekend and welcomes the youth soccer world to multiple venues in the Dallas area. About 40 percent of the teams attending are international and over the years, some of the biggest names in soccer have played in the Dallas Cup in their youth, including David Beckham, Javier Hernandez, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. More than 1,500 volunteers assisted with the event, which brought in 29,500 spectators.

Image courtesy of Western Golf Association
BMW Championship
Medinah Country Club & DuPage Sports Commission
Location: DuPage County, Illinois
Total Room Nights: 30,281
Total Economic Impact: $33,979,691

Produced by the Western Golf Association, the 2019 BMW Championship featured the best field in golf at Medinah Country Club in DuPage County, Illinois. As the oldest championship on the PGA TOUR, and the signature fundraising event for the Evans Scholars Foundation, the BMW Championship has raised more than $30 million since 2007 for the foundation. In an economic impact report generated by the DuPage Sports Commission, the event delivered $19.5 million in direct spending and welcomed 133,000 spectators and was supported by 2,202 volunteers.

Image courtesy of Richard Cliffton
NCAA Women’s College World Series of Softball
Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Total Room Nights: 17,000
Total Economic Impact: $15,000,000

USA Softball and Oklahoma City have partnered on the NCAA Women’s College World Series since 1990 and it has become a marquee event for the area. Because of the tremendous growth and popularity of women’s fastpitch softball, the event has been a sell-out for the last several years. To meet the spectator demand, an additional 4,000 seats are being added to the stadium along with other athlete, coach, media and event amenities so that the event can host even more visitors in 2020.

North American Sand Soccer Championships
Hampton Roads Soccer Council
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Total Room Nights: 3,000
Total Economic Impact: $14,883,304

The North American Sand Soccer Championships is a homegrown event that was created as a fundraiser for the Hampton Roads Soccer Complex (a 24-field facility in Virginia Beach). The event brings together four local soccer clubs who help recruit teams, volunteer at the event and act as ambassadors for Virginia Beach. The event has grown to be one of the largest beach soccer festivals in the world, receives international recognition from Beach Soccer Worldwide (the governing body for beach soccer) and is regarded as a crown jewel in the region.


2019 Toyota USA National Juniors & Women’s Wheelchair
Basketball Association Championships
Lincolnway Special Recreation Association; Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau
Location: Chicago Southland, Illinois
Total Room Nights: 1,300
Total Economic Impact: $478,000

This tournament featured 57 teams with more than 500 adaptive athletes and involved a tremendous amount of logistics to move athletes around safely, and to find appropriate housing for all. This marked the first time both events had been hosted over the same weekend. The event used a total of 19 hotels, along with four gym locations, 10 courts, 21 referees, 10 shuttlebus drivers and nearly 600 attendees at the annual banquet. A total of 1,515 volunteers worked tirelessly to help everything come together successfully.

Photo by Donald Christensen, courtesy of American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa
Location: Stamford, Connecticut
Total Room Nights: Host Hotel (450 rooms) sold out,
leading to overflow booking
Total Economic Impact: $825,000

SDM’s first mind sports champion is the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the world’s oldest and largest crossword event. It is directed by New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz. The Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau notes that the weekend-long tournament, which includes social events as well as in-house tournament play, results in increased revenue in the Stamford area during a shoulder season, as well as close to $51,000 in Connecticut Sales Tax, and support for over 325 hospitality industry jobs. The event has received national media attention and is the subject of a documentary film.

Photo courtesy of Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
IWLCA Junk Brands Midwest Cup
Corrigan Sports Enterprises & Intercollegiate Women’s
Lacrosse Coaches Association
Location: Aurora, Illinois
Total Room Nights: 1,270
Total Economic Impact: $302,353

The IWLCA Midwest Cup was a first for Aurora, but it has already made arrangements to return in 2020, and the area is being considered for another event that year as well. This event utilized 30 hotels in 14 different cities (within six different CVB service areas) for 40 teams from 21 different states. The housing was done in-house by one full-time employee and one part-time from the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to guarantee use of Aurora hotels and allowed hotels to host athletes and guests without paying commissions, keeping funds in the region.

Image courtesy of USA Cheer
2019 College STUNT National Championship
USA Cheer, College STUNT Association and the
University of Oklahoma
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Total Room Nights: 250
Total Economic Impact: $500,000

STUNT, the fastest-growing female sport in the country, removes the crowd-leading element and focuses on the technical and athletic components of cheer, including partner stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling. The first championship, which involved a partnership between USA Cheer, FloSports and OU, was tangible proof of the strength of this rising sport, drawing teams from Divisions I, II and III schools. In addition, combines are now being offered to assist college cheer and STUNT coaches in identifying and recruiting new talent.

Photo courtesy of Julie Larame Photo + Cinema
International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball
& Judo International Qualifier
Visit Fort Wayne
Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Total Room Nights: 2,985
Total Economic Impact: $1,039,272

Co-hosted by Turnstone Center, the United States Association of Blind Athletes, and the International Blind Sports Federation, this event required tremendous volunteer support (a force of over 700) to pull together. It was the first time this event, or any event of its kind, had been held in the United States. Approximately 10,000 spectators and tourists attended this event which marked the first time USA Goalball athletes were able to earn Paralympic qualification as the host country in a qualifier.

Image courtesy of Baker Public Relations
HV GamerCon 2019
Albany Capital Center (ACC), Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) and I Love New York (I♥NY)
Location: Albany, New York
Total Room Nights: 175
Total Economic Impact: $192,551

SDM’s first esports Champion is a home-grown event that, while not the only esports nomination, was unique in its use of multiple partners and its ability to highlight Albany as a growth area for tech interests. The Albany Capital Center, Eastern College Athletic Conference, and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference partnered on the event. An expo showcased regional game development studios, Empire State Development’s Digital Game Hubs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, college programs focusing on games and esports, local artists, independent developers and other esports lifestyle brands. The event brought in 2,200 spectators and tourists. SDM

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