February 16, 2014

VISITORS VIBE: Turning kids' sports into tourism bucks

by Toni Savini Guest columnist

---- — In the last few weeks you may have read the study released by the Indiana Office of Tourism or even the press release about the study completed for Cass County on the economic benefit of tourism. It is big business! Excluding the government, it is the sixth largest business in Indiana and in 2012 created $10 billion in revenue for Indiana businesses.

Tourism can take many forms: business, convention and sports travel to culinary, cultural and agri-tourism. Today, let’s talk about youth sports.

Is kids’ sports big business in the tourism world? You bet! According to Don Schumaker, the executive director of the National Association of Sports Commission, parents will spend $7 billion in the travel associated with youth sports. Anyone who has visited a youth sporting event knows that not only do the parents attend, but also the siblings and a lot of the times the grandparents.

Bowling, soccer, baseball, softball and basketball! As a grandparent, I have attended out-of-town games for all of these sports and at times found it hard to locate a seat among all of the other fans. Some parents are staying an extra day and making what some tourism officials are calling “playcations.” They add a visit to an attraction or use the extra day to relax by the hotel pool before heading back home to plan for their next sporting event.

Spending during your “playcation” can include lodging, restaurants, fees to enter the event, parking, a visit to an attraction and travel (are you getting the picture?).

When we travel to see our grandchildren, the spending has, in the past, included new bowling shoes for DaCotah (he is 16 and outgrows everything), a new bat for Levi (yeah, we heard that ping you hear when the core breaks) and a new pair of sliding shorts for Lily (because she just plain forgot to pack hers). In other words, like many, many other families, we have done our part to be a boon to the economy in several Indiana cities.

In Cass County we have enjoyed the benefit of the visitors associated with youth sports. Crane Field has hosted Ohio Valley Boys Youth Baseball Tournaments, AIM Field has been the site of frequent girls’ softball tournaments and Myers Sports Bowl has welcomed high school bowling clubs from across Indiana. These visitors have been welcomed into our lodging facilities, our eateries and our attraction. They have visited the Cass County Carousel, Tower Park Pool and France Park. Yes, youth sports are a welcome addition to tourism in Cass County.

Well, this set of grandparents is off to Lily’s basketball games and looking forward to Levi’s wrestling schedule. No doubt we will see you in a gym or at a ballpark soon!

Toni Savini is executive director of the Cass County Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at 574-753-4856.