Originally created 07/15/06

Sporting events drive up tourism, bring in millions



The Nike Peach Jam creates a sweet spread with plenty of tourist bread.

The basketball tournament, which concludes today, has brought in an estimated $900,000 in visitor spending, according to the Greater Augusta Sports Council.

This year's event, held at North Augusta's Riverview Park, brought in an estimated 4,000 people.

The crowd consisted of competing high school-age players, scouts, family members and fans, Council Director Tammy Stout said. Many of these folks spent money on hotels, meals, shopping and gas during their stay, helping support the local economy, she said.

This economic driver is just one of several sporting events the Sports Council is helping coordinate during the next month and a half, including the United States Tennis Association state tennis league championships, the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships, the Maxxis Georgia Cup State Championship for cycling and the Nike Nationals women's basketball tournament.

The Peach Jam, plus the other Sports Council-coordinated events, should yield nearly $3 million in economic impact and more than 5,600 hotel room nights, according to the Sports Council.

"We really do have such a wealth of sporting competition that comes through this area," Ms. Stout said.

Some of the other sporting events coming to the area this summer, such as the Southern Nationals boat race, are not coordinated through the council.

This year's Peach Jam impact increased by almost $200,000 thanks to an expansion of the tournament to include games for players younger than 16, Ms. Stout said. This increased the competing teams by 12, for a total of 35, she said.

"Something attractive about younger-age brackets is that more family members tend to travels with athletes the younger they are," she said.

Plans to increase gymnasium space at Riverview Park could attract larger tournaments in the future, she said.

The expansion at the complex could be complete by 2010 provided there is funding, said Bob Brooks, the director of North Augusta's Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services.

The department's master plan, established in 2003, also calls for an indoor pool, a "lazy river" waterway to ride inner tubes on, a senior center and additional parking, he said.

Even though this week's event was held in North Augusta, many of the attendees spend the night in downtown Augusta and along Washington Road, Ms. Stout said.

The Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites has logged about 500 room-nights during the four-day event, hotel manager Matt Ricker said.

"We've been full Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 100 percent, which is a nice place to be," Mr. Ricker said.

This week's Laurel and Hardy celebration, The Sons of the Desert International Convention, also played a role in boosting the hotel's occupancy, he said. This event yielded an economic impact of about $400,000, according to the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Peach Jam is probably the fourth-largest event for the hotel, behind the Masters Tournament, the Tour de Georgia and the Augusta Futurity, Mr. Ricker said.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.

AUGUSTA'S BIGGEST SPORTING EVENTS


Based on estimated tourist spending:


1. Augusta Futurity, $4.8 million


2. National Barrel Horse Association World Championship, $4.5 million


3. Augusta Arsenal Soccer Shootout, $1.1 million


4. Women's Southeastern Bowling Tournament, $1 million


5. Augusta Southern Nationals drag boat racing, $1 million


Note: Financial estimates were unavailable for the Masters Tournament and CITGO Masters Bass Tournament.

Source: Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau


UPCOMING SPORTS COUNCIL EVENTS


- Nike Nationals women's basketball tournament: July 28-31, Riverview Park in North Augusta; 470 competitors, $700,000 in economic impact


- United States Tennis Association state tennis league championships: Aug. 18-21, tennis courts in Richmond and Columbia counties; 1,000 competitors, $750,000 in economic impact


- PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships: Aug. 9-12, at disc golf courses at Lake Olmstead Park and Riverview Park and the Hippodrome in North Augusta; 300 competitors from 20 countries, $360,000 in economic impact


- Maxxis Georgia Cup State Championship: Aug. 18-20, Broad Street and Fort Gordon, 350 competitors, $250,000 in economic impact

Source: Greater Augusta Sports Council