Sports tourism spikes in down economy

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A soccer tournament that begins tomorrow is drawing in a lot more than fans. The metro-Richmond economy is set to be kicked up by millions of dollars.

Sports are as popular as ever, even in a downed economy. Over the next two weekends the Richmond area will be flooded with an extra 30,000 people. Soccer fans will be here to watch the Jefferson Cup Tournament.

"The Jefferson Cup is a huge soccer tournament. $9 million in economic impact," said Jon Lugbill with Sports Backers.

More than 720 boys and girls club teams from 30 states are set to play on more than 50 fields in Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield and Goochland.

"It's the top boys showcase soccer tournament in the country," said Lugbill.

With every face-off central Virginia is set to bank millions.

"It's our own version of March Madness," said Jack Berry with the Richmond Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While basketball does contribute to this month's tourism totals it's not the only sports. March kicked off with a hand-bike convention, then the CAA tourney, now its soccer. In the final stretch for the month: Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k; each sport generating millions for tourism.

"One of the biggest recreations for a visitor of course is shopping. So this weekend, if the citizens are out there, you'll see people in jerseys and coaching and sweats. So please tell them thank you for coming and be very hospitable," said Berry.

An estimated 15,000 hotel rooms are booked over the next two weeks. But even though sports come with a major following, it only accounts for about 10 percent of Richmond's tourism for the entire year.

"We see a downturn in almost every segment except participating sports," Berry said. "Safe to say central Virginia is for Sports Lovers?  Yes. Absolutely."

After soccer comes the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K. That's already sold out. More than 37,000 runners will be at the starting line.

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