With the spring sports season in full swing, Hampton Roads fields are filing up with the influx of baseball, softball and soccer teams.
Some of these teams will travel to tournaments and competitions all around the country and while they’re out competing, winning and making memories, the local economies will be making money. How much you might ask? The answer is about $9 billion, according to the National Association of Sports Commissions. $9 billion!
The Hampton Roads Chamber wants to ensure our region attracts as much of this market share as we can. In fact, one of our affiliates, the Hampton Roads Sports Commission, was created to do just that. Its mission is to strategically attract, create and host high-caliber sports events while fostering city cohesiveness and enhancing the economy, image and quality of life for the region.
Thanks to the sports commission, Hampton Roads is home to mega-events like the AAU Junior Olympic Games, a 10-plus-day sporting event with over 15,000 athletes competing in 17 sports. The commission hosts this huge event every five years in our region. During our last event in 2015, an estimated $50 million in economic impact was recorded for the region through visitor spending on hotel nights, attractions, restaurants, travel and shopping.
Thanks to our sports commission, Hampton Roads is set to host the AAU Junior Olympic Games again in 2020.
Interestingly, the youth sports industry has proven to be one of the only tourism sectors that is recession proof. Parents will cancel their vacations and cut back on spending, but they won’t forgo their children’s sporting events, tournaments and championships. And the economy of the Hampton Roads region has benefited from this phenomenon.
“Youth sports play a key factor in Chesapeake,” said Kim Murden, tourism manager for the city of Chesapeake. “(It) brings a positive economic impact to the surrounding retail and restaurant community.”
As the youth sports industry continues to boom, sports tourism in general is having an even larger economic impact. Virginia Beach recognizes this and has purposefully become one of the premier destinations for sports vacations over the last several years in large part because of its ability to see the value in sports tourism.
“Virginia Beach has grown from hosting 49 participatory sporting events in 2013 to hosting 95 events in 2016,” said Nancy Helman, Virginia Beach sports marketing director. The Hampton Roads Sports Commission supports all the municipalities in efforts to attract major amateur athletic events to the area while emphasizing regional collaboration and collective impact.
Additionally, the sports commission supports the general business community with events such as the Corporate Challenge, conducted this year April 12-22 and the Hero Games, scheduled for Oct. 22-29.
This year’s Corporate Challenge will see more than 60 local companies participating in fun charitable networking and team-building sporting events. Due to its tremendous popularity this is an impressive expansion from last year’s inaugural event.
The sports commission also debuted the Hero Games last year, a charitable event where first responders compete in a variety of sporting challenges. All of these events provide opportunities for the community to get involved with the sports industry and to see firsthand the economic impact tournaments and sporting events have on our community.
As an affiliate of The Hampton Roads Chamber, the Hampton Roads Sports Commission is a powerful economic partner. Youth and other sports tourism is a multibillion dollar industry, one that Hampton Roads needs to continue to grow as we develop and further our appeal to the sports industry.
Community driven events like the Corporate Challenge and the Hero Games inspire and ignite business leaders. Through supporting sports tourism initiatives and participating in sports-related community events, business leaders become advocates for healthy living, team building and philanthropy on a local level.
Whether you engage with the Hampton Roads Sports Commission on or off the field, you’re impacting the economic development of the region; your participation makes us all winners.
Bryan K. Stephens is the president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.