• WisBusiness

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Soccer tournaments bring in tourism dollars

By MaryBeth Matzek
When you think of sports and tourism dollars in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers jump to the top of the list. But beyond those economic powerhouses, cities across the state look to athletes who are a bit younger to amp up their tourism dollars. Youth soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball teams can easily fill hotel rooms and restaurants when local venues host tournaments.

Take the U.S. Youth Soccer Region II Championships, which are being played this month on fields in Appleton and De Pere. More than 3,500 players and their families need someplace to sleep and eat. The Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates those soccer players and spectators translate to $6.5 million in visitor spending, including 12,000 nights of hotel bookings.

Tournaments that don't quite have that level of prestige – winners of the Region II Championship advance to nationals – also contribute heavily to a community's economic vitality. For example, our family recently traveled from Appleton to Madison for the three-day tournament at the Reddan Soccer Park in Verona, just outside of Madison. Our team stayed in a hotel packed with other soccer teams, we ate and shopped at local venues. One of the teams at our hotel came from Minnesota and one of those parents told me they view the soccer tournament as one of their family vacations.

Jamie Patrick, vice president of the Madison Area Sports Commission, says soccer tournaments at Reddan as well as other youth athletic events are an integral part of the area's economy. "The games may be in Verona, but it has a huge impact on the county as people sleep, eat and shop everywhere," he says, adding that the seven tournaments at Reddan this year are expected to result in $2.5 million in direct spending.

The sporting events help fill hotel rooms that during the week serve business and convention clients, Patrick adds. "It's really a smart piece to the entire economic picture," he says.

Madison isn't alone. Stevens Point, which is hosting a large youth soccer tournament June 19-21, expects to see roughly $280,000 in visitor spending from the weekend, says Melissa Sabel, director of marketing for the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Those numbers are based on a 2012 survey that looked at how much attendees and their families spent while in town for the tournament. Teams that came from more than 60 miles away are likely to spend two nights in a hotel, shop and eat locally. Teams that are closer and just traveling to Stevens Point for the games are still likely to spend money on eating out, shopping and getting gas.

"We view the youth sporting events as a vital part of our tourism mix," Sabel says. "It also introduces people to our community and they may come back as visitors."

Sabel also puts together a list of activities and attractions that families can visit in between soccer games. "We want to give them some options during the downtime," she says.

Patrick says the tourism business related to youth sports managed to stay strong even when business and convention travel – not to mention leisure travel – declined during the economic downturn.

"Parents still want their children to have these great experiences and are willing to give up on other things, such as a family vacation, so they will decide instead to attend a soccer tournament so their child can be with their teammates," he says.

New project for downtown Green Bay

A $5.5 million condominium and retail project in Green Bay is closer to realization. DeLeers Construction in De Pere and Creative Business Services in Green Bay put together a project plan that recently won approval from the Redevelopment Authority of Green Bay. It won out over other competing ideas for retail and high-end apartments.

The project – which will be called The Barracks at Fort Howard and will be located on N. Broadway Street -- includes 3,000 square feet of retail space, underground parking and an undetermined number of condo units. The developers plan to break ground next spring on the project.

Insurance moves

Arise Health Plan and AboutHealth, a statewide health organization, are teaming up to offer its own co-branded health care and insurance products.

AboutHealth is an accountable care organization (ACO) comprised of Aspirus, Aurora Health Care, Bellin Health, Gundersen Health System, ProHealth Care, ThedaCare and UW Health. ACOs are designed to make it easier for patients to access high-quality, affordable health care across the state.

Under the deal, Arise and AboutHealth will offer co-branded individual and group coverage with AboutHealth providers starting in 2016. The partners will also offer individual and small group plans on the federal health care marketplace.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


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