This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion
When you think of sports and tourism dollars in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers jump to the top of the list. But beyond those economic powerhouses, cities across the state look to athletes who are a bit younger to amp up their tourism dollars. Youth soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball teams can easily fill hotel rooms and restaurants when local venues host tournaments.
Take the U.S. Youth Soccer Region II Championships, which are being played this month on fields in Appleton and De Pere. More than 3,500 players and their families need someplace to sleep and eat. The Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates those soccer players and spectators translate to $6.5 million in visitor spending, including 12,000 nights of hotel bookings.
Tournaments that don’t quite have that level of prestige – winners of the Region II Championship advance to nationals – also contribute heavily to a community’s economic vitality. For example, our family recently traveled from Appleton to Madison for the three-day tournament at the Reddan Soccer Park in Verona, just outside of Madison. Our team stayed in a hotel packed with other soccer teams, we ate and shopped at local venues. One of the teams at our hotel came from Minnesota and one of those parents told me they view the soccer tournament as one of their family vacations.
Jamie Patrick, vice president of the Madison Area Sports Commission, says soccer tournaments at Reddan as well as other youth athletic events are an integral part of the area’s economy. “The games may be in Verona, but it has a huge impact on the county as people sleep, eat and shop everywhere,” he says, adding that the seven tournaments at Reddan this year are expected to result in $2.5 million in direct spending.