NORTH AUGUSTA --- Regardless of who the final winners are, this year's Nike Peach Jam tournament held in North Augusta is already shaping up to be a slam dunk for local business.
"The economy is the big winner of the tournament," said Rick Meyer, superintendent of the North Augusta Department of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services. "It's a win-win for North Augusta and Augusta. In terms of visitors to the area, it's easily in the 5,000 to 10,000 range. The economic impact is probably felt greater in Augusta with the hotels and the restaurants, but North Augusta gets the attention and the notoriety."
The addition of the Peach State Showcase in Aiken has led to both events having a larger economic impact than in the past.
Meyer said early estimates show this year's tournament has brought in more than $1 million.
"Having that other tournament has turned out to be a blessing to the area. The Peach State wouldn't exist without the success of the Peach Jam," Meyer said.
"It's almost made it convenient for the recruiters to have a one-stop shop here in a 20-mile radius," Meyer said.
David Fort, manager of the Sleep Inn and Suites at 921 Edgefield Road in North Augusta, said the event is always a good bet for bringing guests to the hotel.
"There's always an increase in business during the Peach Jam, whether it's recruiters, coaches and reporters, not just teams," Fort said. "I've had teams in the past all the way from Oregon and Washington. It's a big draw."
Fort said Wednesday afternoon that the hotel was "close to full right now."
"They usually arrive the Sunday prior," Fort said. "You're at least guaranteed that they will stay Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and they might stay Wednesday depending on whether a team advances to the finals or not."
Antonio's Italian Eatery at 336 Georgia Ave. is located almost straight down the road from the Riverview Park Activities Center, the Peach Jam's venue. Tom Langley, its manager, says he has seen a "moderate" increase in business during the day while the tournament has been in session.
"There's been more customers during lunchtime," Langley said.
Despite the national attention, Meyer still thinks North Augusta is able to keep its small-town feel.
"This is the 15th year of the tournament, and it's the first time we've been covered by TV," Meyer said. "With some of the college coaches coming in, it can get pretty funny. They had no idea where they were. They thought they were in Georgia."