Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 28, 2013

Sports generate big bucks for county

— — I have to admit that I’ve never been much of a sports enthusiast. Yes, I can get excited about a WVU game when I’m with the rest of my family or watch the Super Bowl, but other than that, I just can’t get excited. Like other guys, I like movies with lots of explosions and if I could be anyone in the movies, I’d be James Bond. He travels, women love him and he has lots of toys.

However, I appreciate the amount of money spent on sports. Both of my nephews — A.J. and his younger brother Alex — have played football, baseball and basketball ever since they could stand up straight. They’re both extremely good on any field or court. Naturally, they have regular practices and constantly need equipment, uniforms, transportation and the list goes on. My sister Karen shuttles them around, but A.J.’s now old enough do his own shuttling.

I also hear about the costs of playing sports. My sister and brother-in-law know about the prices, and they know junior sports is big business. I’ve attended some of my nephew’s games, and I always count on seeing hundreds of kids. Each young athlete has at least one parent with them plus a host of grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts and more to watch the games. Each family pours hundreds and even thousands of dollars into equipment, travel expenses, food and accommodations when league tournaments put their kids on the road. I know a lot of businesses down in Charlotte depend on the youth leagues for a lot of their income.

A story I wrote for a recent edition reminded me about the money sports puts into communities. The Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce and the East River Soccer Association are hosting their second annual PMCCC-East River Soccer Classic on May 4-5. More than 20 teams are expected to compete at the association’s complex off John Nash Boulevard in Bluefield.

I heard some pretty impressive figures. For example, suppose 20 teams showed up for a soccer tournament. Each team would have about a dozen players. This means 240 kids are participating. Each player will be accompanied by at least one parent. Grandparents, siblings, cousins and other members of each family come to the tournament, too.

The families could each spend up to $100 a night for two nights at a local motel or hotel. This adds up to approximately $96,000 for accommodations alone. The next item every visitor must have is food. Each visitor could spend $20 a day on meals. When all the figures are added up, this means the tournament generates approximately $100,000 for Mercer County’s economy. Even more money comes into the equation when you think about the incidental items the visitors might purchase in local stores.

Naturally, organizers hope to grow this tournament into an even bigger event capable of putting more money into the local economy. When you bring more kids into the games, they bring more members of their families. They may stay for only a couple of days, but they leave behind hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It would be interesting to see how other sporting events impact the local economy. For instance, I’m sure the annual football game between Bluefield and Graham high schools generates a big economic impact. Anyone who goes to Mitchell Stadium’s parking lot during the game will see hundreds of vehicles, many of them with license plates from across the country. I know classes at both schools plan their reunions around the game, so the event attracts many people who do not have a son or daughter, niece, nephew or whoever at the stadium.

Another sport bringing money into the county is ATV and dirt bike riding. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail is seeing more visitors. This adds up to more permits being sold. Like many other sports, ATV riding often involves entire families. They need food, a place to stay, repairs services, equipment to replace anything they lost or left behind, and entertainment when they’re not on the trail.

The ATV sport, like soccer tournaments, has potential as a growth industry. I know that more motel rooms and campsites are needed for visiting ATV riders. The riders I’ve interviewed have said they would like to see more car washes and laundries. Those sort of enterprises would let them clean up before they head back to their rooms or camps. I wonder if there is any way to tabulate the amount of money spent by ATV riders during a weekend.

Sports might not be everybody’s favorite activity, but they do generate a lot of economic activity. Encouraging more tournaments should bring even more of an economic boost to southern West Virginia and the surrounding region.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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