Visit Eau Claire Sports Commission
Posted: December 13, 2013
Some of my worst motel stays occurred when I shared the night with a youth sports team. Kids were running up and down the hallways, there was noise at all hours of the day (and night) and the indoor swimming pool was like going to Fairfax Pool on a 90-degree day.
When I served as vice president of the Board of Directors for the Eau Claire Convention & Visitors Bureau (now known as Visit Eau Claire) from 1992 to 1997, there was some consideration to paying more attention to the youth sports market in the Eau Claire area. By the year 2000, the Chippewa Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau had established the Sports Commission, which legitimized the concept that youth sports had a substantial impact on the economy.
According to Visit Eau Claire Executive Director Linda John, creation of the Visit Eau Claire Sports Commission was a trendsetter.
"We were the first in the state. Now, there are about 20 Sports Commissions. Over the last 13 years, our Sports Commission has directly invested in 61 new events and the spending from those events has exceeded $33 million," said John, who added that Visit Eau Claire does not just assist traditional sporting events such as basketball, baseball, soccer and softball.
"We have kind of cornered the market on offbeat events, like the National Boomerang Tour, the World Horseshoe Tournament and the Dartball and Timbersports events. These are unique events that bring entertainment value to the area," she said.
Studies show that in tough economic times, people tend to scale back on excess spending. But youth sports and sports-related travel have remained steady, despite the Great Recession. In fact, nationwide, 53 million traveling athletes participate in youth sporting events, generating an estimated $7 billion of economic impact.
Even on a cold winter weekend, I look at local motels that appear to be booked near capacity, only to find out later that there was a youth hockey tournament taking place in the area. Likewise, soccer, baseball and softball fields are being utilitized in record numbers throughout the spring and summer as visitors from throughout the Upper Midwest come to the Chippewa Valley to stay and spend money.
So, the way I look at it is, if the children who visit while playing youth sports grow up and eventually want to live here or wish revisit the Chippewa Valley when they are older, it could be a win-win for everyone - except for those who had to spend the night with them in a motel while they were in their youth.