I spent some time this past week updating data concerning economic impact of sports tourism in the Wenatchee Valley in 2014. I know to most, that doesn’t sound like the most riveting exercise, but I actually find it more than just a little interesting. One aspect that regularly stands out is the large number of events held here that fall off the radar of traditional media coverage. If there’s not a large fan base, or if it isn’t school-oriented, large numbers of readers and listeners probably won’t be engaged. Yet, literally hundreds of participants and their accompaniment regularly come here weekend after weekend to experience tournaments or sports-related events that have very little fan base. Those types of events are truly the bread and butter of the sports tourism industry here. It’s interesting to check out the list of our top 15 events in 2014 based on sports tourism spending. The variety is impressive. Ten different sports make the list, ranging from swimming to skiing to lacrosse. That variety is an essential component to the success of sports tourism here. In fact, a great example occurs this coming weekend at Town Toyota Center. The Hot Autumn Ice Women’s Hockey Tournament is comprised of 22 teams from throughout the northwest (Seattle, British Columbia, Oregon, Eastern Washington and Idaho) joining 4 local teams for 45 games. That’s a ton of ice time. We’re estimating these visiting teams will account for nearly 400 hotel room nights, contributing to about $115,000 in overall sports tourism spending. But the value goes far beyond the dollars. For example, the 4 local teams have a total of over 50 skaters that get a chance to play in a competitive, fun, quality tournament in a great venue. Younger girls who like to skate get a chance to watch adult women’s hockey live, maybe giving them the bug that will open the door to a recreational opportunity they can enjoy for years. Plus, these events generally bring many people to the area for the first time. Several make plans to come back and spend some weekend or vacation time here. That type of residual effect is a hard-to-measure variable from an economic impact standpoint, but one that most certainly exists. If you’re looking for a change of pace, check it out. Play runs Friday evening through Sunday afternoon November 21-23 on both the arena and community ice rink at Town Toyota Center.
Matt Kearny is coordinator of sports tourism for the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at 509-662-2116 or firstname.lastname@example.org