While the Wenatchee Valley is an area that provides sports and recreation opportunities year-round, there’s no denying that we have begun the most impactful time of year, at least from a sports tourism standpoint.
In fact, in 2013, March and April were the two biggest months in terms of sports tourism visits and hotel room nights, with June not far behind. March began with a bang this year with the Washington State Olympics Winter Games. Some 1,598 athletes and their sizeable accompaniment were in the area for three days (some even longer with the tenuous mountain pass situation that weekend).
Over the next few weeks, we’ll see a clash of winter and spring. Mission Ridge hosted its biggest race of the year, the six-day Western Regionals, while at the same time, our parks came out of hibernation and ready for lacrosse and the start of baseball and softball before month’s end. And for good measure, throw in a nice home schedule of Wenatchee Wild hockey.
Jumping ahead just a few weeks, April boasts two of our top five events of the year from a sports tourism standpoint — the Triple Crown Baseball season opener April 12-13 (boys teams ages 9-14), followed by the Wenatchee Marathon on April 19. New this year will be the Wenatchee Marathon Expo on April 18 at Stanley Civic Center. Running-related booths, including outdoor gear vendors and others connected to local endurance events and groups, will be featured.
I’m a numbers guy, so here’s my way to illustrate the impact that takes place this time of year. In 2013, the Wenatchee Valley realized an estimated $7.35 million in sports tourism spending on just tournaments and events alone. An incredible 34 percent of that came in March and April.
The pendulum will swing somewhat in 2014, as we’ll see the second half of the year cut into those percentages in a positive way with some sizeable new events coming, most notably in figure skating and swimming.
The best part of this for both participants and spectators alike is the wide diversity of events and activities to take in. At least 10 uniquely different sports will be showcased between now and the end of April, ranging from the likes of top-tiered skiing competitions to senior softball tournaments. When you add in the availability of our miles of trails for spring hiking and cycling, it leaves no doubt that it’s a hard time of year to beat for those who enjoy sports and recreation.
Matt Kearny is coordinator of sports tourism for the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at 509-662-2116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.