Sports Tourism: Events have $16.4 million impact on Carson City
Sports tourism has emerged as a strong contender in Carson City’s economic struggle in recent years, and 2011 turned out to be the best so far, said the city’s recreation operations manager, Joel Dunn.
The 56,000 visitors who came to Carson City last year for nearly 20 tournaments such as the Comstock Shootout and Midnight Madness had a $16.4 million impact on the economy, Dunn said in a report to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
“I think we play a vital role. In view of the tough times we’ve all faced, I think it’s important to create new wealth in our community,” Dunn said Wednesday of his division’s efforts to host sports tournaments all year long.
The sports tourism campaign started in 2005 when the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau entered into a partnership with the recreation division in an effort to set the city apart as a regional sports tournament destination.
And these community partnerships have made all the difference, he said.
The CCCVB dropped $15,000 into the campaign the first year, and saw an immediate return on its investment with 12,000 visitors spending $3.6 million, Dunn said.
Candy Duncan, CCCVB director, said the bureau invested $70,000 on marketing sports tourism in 2011, and agreed that the partnership has been valuable.
“The sports tourism aspect of the bureau has been very important, particularly to our lodging properties, in room nights,” Duncan said.
Dunn said another partner is the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.
“The chamber continues to play a vital role in marketing the successes of the campaign. It has created a public awareness of the industry of sports tourism and the benefits it creates for our community,” he said.
Chamber Director Ronni Hannaman, in the chamber’s Winter/Spring “In Focus” publication, defined sports tourism.
“Simply put, it’s the ability to attract teams from outside of the 100-mile area to play on our fields and, more importantly, to increase revenues for businesses and the Carson City general fund,” she said.
Beneficiaries include the state of Nevada, which receives the lion’s share of the tax revenue generated, Hannaman said, but the biggest impact is felt by hotels, restaurants, gas stations, retail and more.
“Whenever a business has been able to see an appreciable blip in sales, generally, it can be traced back to a tournament in town,” Hannaman said.
One such business which can vouch for the influx in business is The Pizza Factory on Highway 50 East.
“Tournaments bring in a lot more customers and help get our name out there,” said Brandon Melvin, the shop’s manager.
“They come in here in parties of 13 or more at a time,” Melvin said. “We’re swamped when tournaments are in town.”
According to the division’s methodology, the impact surveys were designed to quickly and accurately collect the required data to establish visitor spending. Surveys are collected by city staff during concession operations for every event.
Another key to the city’s success, Dunn said, is being aware of sports trends.
“We’ve stayed ahead of the sports travel trends for regional sports participation,” he said.
As the decline in attendance for adult softball became apparent, Dunn said, Carson City already had moved into youth fastball pitch.
He said he believes the city can accommodate the growing number of tournaments.
“We do have enough fields now, and in the future, we could use additional fields, but right now, the money could be better spent in increasing indoor facilities like the MAC (multi-purpose athletic center) for our shoulder season which is October through April,” he said.
Some people have raised concerns that sports tourism could impact local programming in the community, but Dunn said he works hard to ensure that its increase has no negative effect on local recreation programs in their traditional seasons.
A big change for this year will be the All World Sports world youth baseball championships tournament July 19-22, Dunn said.
“We’ll be on every available field, including Governor’s and Edmonds. With the growth of sports tournaments, we had an opportunity to identify a two-week period at Governor’s and Edmonds to bring this tournament in between the traditional seasons of Little League and Pop Warner,” he said.
“I imagine this could be the largest-attended youth baseball tournament in the nation within three to five years,” Dunn said.
The 2012 season includes 36 tournaments with a projected economic impact of $17.5 million and total expenses of $70,600 for July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
Highlights of the 2011 Sports Tourism Economic Impact Report:
• During the campaign, the Carson City lodging properties received 15.6 percent of the overall economic impact with 84.4 percent of the visitor spending going to the business community for food, beverage, entertainment and retail.
• During the Midnight Madness Adult Softball Tournament, 7,084 out-of-area visitors attended the 72-hour around-the-clock event held Memorial Day weekend.
• The Comstock Shootout Youth Soccer Tournament accounted for 19 percent of the economic impact with 8,904 out-of-area participants/spectators attending during the last two weekends in April.
• During the tournament season, the average attendee spent $80.94 per day on food, beverages, lodging, retail sales and entertainment during their stay in Carson City.
• The 2011 tournaments averaged 3.6 days per event.