Youth Sports Tourism Keeps Booming, But How Deep Do Its Dollars … – Forbes
On the August 2017 edition of HBO’s Real Sports, a consultant on youth sports facilities development named Dev Pathik explains to reporter Jon Frankel that $9 billion is spent per year (and growing by 20 percent annually) on youth sports travel. “It’s an incredible transformation with massive ripple effects on the rest of our society,” Pathik tells Frankel.
If that sounds over-the-top, consider that the Real Sports piece shows a traditional vacation spot like Myrtle Beach, S.C., spending big bucks on youth sports facilities to make sure people come to the beach like they used to, and I’ll refer back to this piece I wrote about Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, spending big bucks on youth sports facilities to make sure people come to ride roller coasters like they used to.
And you know Pathik has portmanteau for this: “Tourna-cation.”
The dream of attracting all that tourna-cation cash has towns large and small across the United States furiously building their own facilities to attract travel sports teams, and there is no reason for them to stop. Time’s most recent cover story succinctly and effectively summed up eight-plus years of this blog in one story about how the pool of parents spending tens of thousands of dollars a year to assuage fears their kids might miss out on scholarship opportunities is only expanding — to the tune of a $15.3 billion total youth sports industry whose pool of would-be exploiters of that fear is only growing, too.
In the Real Sports piece, Andy Cook, the mayor of Westfield, Ind., says his city’s Grand Park (at 400 acres, the largest mixed-used youth sports facility in America), notes that in 2016 it attracted 1.2 million visits, resulting in $145 million in tourism spending. In one week in July 2017, the facility attracted 7,000 athletes — and, of course, their parents, siblings and other relatives. That’s a big reason why youth sports is seen as such an economic boon — the kids always have to bring their own entourages.
But how much, really, can a community expect in tourism dollars and activity from youth sports? About a month back, I came upon an interesting study that tried to answer that question. So far, the answer is this — the dollars the community gets from visits to hotels and restaurants are good, but in most cases it can’t expect families to extend their tourna-cation so it’s less tourna- and more -cation.
The study was commissioned by the Hamilton County (Ind.) Sports Authority, the sports tourism wing of Visit Hamilton County, the area’s local tourism authority. The suburban Indianapolis county needs its own sports tourism division because it’s pitching numerous facilities for events — particularly, Grand Park in Westfield. Richard Buning, an assistant professor of the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University, and Cassandra Coble, an Indiana University School of Public Health assistant professor whose concentration is sports management, were tasked with asking Grand Park visitors questions related to why they’re in town, what they do while they’re there and what attracts them to certain facilities.