Preliminary estimates show tourism spending on tournaments and events in the Wenatchee Valley in 2015 will show a slight increase over the previous year. This is encouraging news considering that the year started off with significant hits due to low snowfall throughout the state.
Even though Mission Ridge Ski & Board resort was ready, willing and able, the ski portion of the Winter Special Olympics was canceled (lack of snow at other areas gave many participants little or no chance to practice, creating safety concerns), followed the next week by the Western Regionals being moved to an out-of-state venue. Besides disappointment, the net result was the loss of several hundred thousand dollars in economic impact.
We were able to rebound from that tough first quarter due to the wide variety of events we are able to host here. Included in the top 10 events in 2015 in terms of economic impact is an impressive range of activities including youth baseball, running, soccer, swimming, cycling and the Special Olympics. Girls fast pitch, ski racing, lacrosse, men’s softball and dog shows are also in the mix. It’s the same theory that financial experts advise when helping create portfolios. Diversity can help offset losses if you happen to take a hit in a key area. And diversity is what we have.
Speaking of a varied menu to choose from, that will be evident again as we move into 2016. We’ll see a robust list of returning events, many of which are in a strong growth mode. On the board is the return of state gymnastics competition in April, and for the second time in three years, the U.S. Figure Skating Northwest Pacific Regionals will be held at Town Toyota Center in October. Several other new events are in the planning stages and will ‘pop’ either in 2016 or 2017, bringing us to an estimated total of well over $8 million in sports tourism spending annually.
Again, keep in mind this is only for tournaments and events, and does not include spending by locals. Nor does it take into account the millions of dollars spent annually in pure outdoor recreation. But soon, we’ll be able to share information on those numbers as well, as a comprehensive study on the economic impact of outdoor recreation in Chelan and Douglas Counties is set to begin in January.
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.