There’s a reason that tournaments for athletes young and old have popped up across the nation.
The reason is the economic impact tournaments have on their hosts, with an estimated $9 billion spent on youth sports travel nationwide in 2016, according to Sports Facilities Management.
In Southern Arizona the Town of Oro Valley brought in $2,506,615 in estimated economic impact from the 5,076 room nights associated with the 14 sporting events it hosted from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018. That number is even larger for Tucson as a whole, according to Visit Tucson Sports Manager John Jeffrey, with $23.7 million coming in 2017, and nearly $923,000 in estimated impact this year through June.
Oro Valley Strategic Initiatives Manager Amanda Jacobs said that the economic windfall from sports tourism is especially important to her town’s economy.
“Sports tourism, in general, results in a positive economic impact for Oro Valley, because athletes and their families are traveling to our community, staying in our hotels, dining in our restaurants and shopping in our stores,” Jacobs said. “Oro Valley does not have a local property tax, and relies heavily on local sales and bed taxes, most of which are generated by visitors.”
The Town of Oro Valley works in tandem with Visit Tucson to attract as many events as possible, paying the organization $275,000 in 2017 and $300,000 in 2018 for its services.
Visit Tucson reciprocates support to the town. Between July 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, the town’s return on investment includes more than $5.7 million in booked meetings and room nights, $2.5 million in economic impact associated with sporting event room nights, space in local visitors guides and cash investments in tourism activities that benefit the town, such as the town’s 4th of July event, marketing placements and more.
Visit Tucson also hosts, updates and helps drive traffic to Oro Valley’s tourism-based website, visitorovalley.com, which attracted 10,422 users during the same time frame, according to the town’s return on investment statement.
According to Visit Tucson, the town’s money is used for hospitality at town-sponsored events, and that he measures success based on number of room nights, number of events and economic impact monies brought to the town.
Visit Tucson’s work has brought a host of sporting tournaments to the region, including the Arizona Swimming Long Course and Short Course Group State Championships, the U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Championships, the U.S. National Collegiate Championships and Senior Nationals.
Perhaps the greatest segment of growth for towns like Oro Valley rests in the explosion of youth sports tournaments, like the Little League District 5 Tournament, held at James D. Kreigh Field.
“The youth sports market is a growing and stable market in the industry,” Jeffrey said. “The market allows a larger economic impact due to family travel. The goal is to create and provide an experience that the entire family can participate in and enjoy.”
When asked what exactly the City of Tucson and Town of Oro Valley can do to attract more sports tourism, Jeffrey touched on the value of cooperation for all involved.
“I would suggest more community participation from business and residents,” Jeffrey said.
The competition for hosting adult and youth sporting events is intense, with the team of Visit Tucson and the Town of Oro Valley competing with more than 400 cities nationwide when trying to attract tournaments.
The town’s return on investment statement shows that for every $1 invested in Visit Tucson, they received a return of $30.10.
“Oro Valley has positioned itself to be a destination of choice for sports tourism with our world-class aquatic center, parks and multi-use trails,” Jacobs said. “Attracting and retaining sports-related events in Oro Valley would not be possible without the support of the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visit Tucson.”