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AUSA Cancels Global Force Symposium

Following the Association of the United States Army announcement that the 2020 Global Force Symposium & Exposition has officially been cancelled due to the ongoing public health threat, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau  offered reassurances that the Rocket City remains a welcoming destination for conferences, tradeshows, and other events.

The Global Force Symposium is one of the largest conferences Huntsville hosts annually, bringing together more than 6,000 attendees and representing an estimated $3.6 million in economic impact.

“We understand AUSA’s desire to prioritize the health and safety of their delegates, and look forward to welcoming them in 2021. Going forward, the CVB will continue to work with our hospitality partners and public health officials to ensure that the health and safety of our visitors remains a top priority,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the CVB. “Supporting our local hospitality industry is also of utmost importance – as travel is impacted, we encourage our residents to explore their own backyard and be patrons to our Huntsville/Madison County restaurants, attractions, hotels, and others.”

Jamie Koshofer, vice president of conventions, said the CVB has worked closely with AUSA over the past year.

“AUSA has long been a close partner of the CVB, and we will continue to provide support for them in all ways that we can,” Koshofer said. “2021 is right around the corner, and we look forward to bringing that business back to the Rocket City.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he is disappointed in the cancellation but the city and AUSA have a strong partnership.

“The City of Huntsville has developed a great partnership with AUSA over the past several years,” Battle said. “While we share in the disappointment of the community, we respect their decision to make the health of AUSA members, participants and our citizens a top priority.

“We will continue to work with them and look forward to seeing AUSA in Huntsville in the coming years.”

Currently, there have been no official reported coronavirus cases in Alabama.

Sports Tournaments over Weekend Generate $1.7 Million Economic Impact in Huntsville

Huntsville isn’t just a high-tech town known for helping put man on the moon.

It’s also a magnet for competitive sports tournaments that attract thousands of visitors and produce millions of dollars each year in the community. In fact, the Southeastern Short Course Championships and NASA Volleyball Bash this past weekend had an economic impact of more than $1.7 million in Huntsville alone, the city announced in a news release.

With more than 25 sporting events scheduled for 2020, the Huntsville Sports Commission reports an economic impact of over $2 million already this year in Huntsville. Sports Commission Executive Director Ralph Stone said this past weekend was a great example of Huntsville’s potential in the sports tourism industry.

“It was a great weekend for sports business in Huntsville,” he said. “With a combined economic impact of over $1.7 million for the City, it goes to show why the Huntsville Sports Commission does what we do.”

Below are main specs from both tournaments over the Feb. 21-23 weekend:

Southeastern Short Course Championships

  • Host: Huntsville Swim Association
  • Total Economic Impact: $870,312
  • Participants: 945
  • Daily Spectators: 1,890
  • Room Nights: 2,044

NASA Volleyball Bash

  • Host: NASA Volleyball Club
  • Total Economic Impact: $855,672
  • Participants: 1,704
  • Daily Spectators: 2,500
  • Room Nights: 1,864

Nancy Rickmeyer, tournament director for NASA Volleyball Bash, said this year’s event at the Von Braun Center was one of its best competitions yet. Downtown Huntsville was also a key factor in making the event so successful, she said.

“Downtown Huntsville has more opportunities than ever for dining, shopping and activities close to the VBC for all participants,” she said.

The Southeastern Short Course Championships also went well, thanks to partnerships within the community, according to Huntsville Swim Association Head Coach Matt Webber.

“The Southeastern championship meet is as well run a meet as you will find in the country,” he said. “The support we receive from the City of Huntsville, Huntsville Sports Commission and Huntsville Parks and Recreation Department is unmatched in terms of contributing to successful competitions.”

A recent study by WinterGreen Research estimates the youth sports industry is a $19.2 billion market in the U.S., rivaling the size of the $15 billion NFL. As traveling sports teams grow in popularity, that figure jumps to $24.9 billion worldwide.

Judy Ryals, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Southeastern Short Course Championships and NASA Volleyball Bash demonstrated the critical role sports tourism plays in Huntsville’s economy.

“It’s evident in the past weekend’s events and in others like the inaugural Huntsville Championship professional golf tournament in April and the U.S. Tennis Association’s national championship for 16-and-under girls this July, and so many other competitions,” she said. “It’s a testament to the excellent facilities and the city leadership in recognizing the benefit of sports to our community.”

Governor’s Conference on Tourism Coming to Huntsville

Elected officials and tourism leaders throughout the state will gather in Huntsville for the 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference, which is Aug. 17-20 at the Von Braun Center, brings the state’s travel and tourism industry together for professional development, networking, and collaboration on strategies to promote Alabama as a premier travel destination.

Approximately 200-250 guests, including representatives from statewide attractions, hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, marketing firms, and other hospitality workers, are expected to be in attendance.

“The conference not only gives Alabama travel professionals the opportunity to learn from experts in tourism and marketing, but to also raise money for in-state college scholarships and reward hard work through industry awards,” said Patti Culp, CEO for the Alabama Travel Council.

Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city is excited about the conference.

“2019 is such a hallmark year for our city as we celebrate the state bicentennial, the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, new dining, retail, and entertainment developments, and so much more; this is perfect timing to welcome our tourism partners to see the growth happening in Huntsville and experience everything we have to offer as a destination,” Ryals said. “We look forward to the opportunity to showcase our community’s progress to industry leaders and highlight why Huntsville/Madison County is a key asset in the state’s tourism offerings.”

In 2018, the travel and tourism industry, which includes leisure and meeting visitors, was responsible for more than 17,000 jobs in Madison County. The 3.4 million visitors also pumped a record-breaking $1.4 billion into the local economy.

While in Huntsville, the visitors will attend receptions at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Campus No. 805 and , Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum; play a round of golf at Robert Trent Jones – Hampton Cove; and tour the Huntsville Botanical Garden and downtown.

 

Good Eatin’ Ahead as Huntsville Restaurant Week Kicks Off

Some tasty offerings during the Huntsville Restaurant Week press conference at Stovehouse. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Guests were met with the delicious aroma of roasting garlic and were served complimentary spicy veal meatballs and seafood Fritto Misto from Mozzara’s Italian Kitchen at the Stovehouse during the official kickoff for the eighth annual Huntsville Restaurant Week, Aug. 9-18.

Mayor Tommy Battle laughed that Restaurant Week is 52 weeks a year at the Battle house as he and Madison Mayor Paul Finley joined the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in highlighting the culinary events ahead.

“As Huntsville grows, so does our local dining scene, and we’re excited to have so much to offer to visitors,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, “There are culinary experiences in Huntsville that can’t be found anywhere else: from dining under the National Historic Landmark Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Biergarten, to the one-of-a-kind settings at venues such as Campus No. 805, Stovehouse, MidCity, and so many others.

Judy Ryals

“Huntsville is truly a destination that attracts visitors seeking unique dining and travel experiences.”

More than 50 local eateries and breweries will participate in “ten tasty days of deals” beginning Friday to encourage people to try some of the new cuisine that has come to Huntsville in the past couple of years. Straight to Ale, Old Black Bear, and InnerSpace breweries are also participating with specialty Restaurant Week craft beers.

“As the coordinator of Huntsville Restaurant Week, it has been my pleasure to see this promotion grow,” said Pam Williams, Tourism & Education sales manager for the CVB. “Each year it is surprising to see how many new places have joined the Madison County culinary scene, and 2019 is no different.

Pam Williams

“Ultimately, the CVB’s goal for Restaurant Week is to showcase the Madison County dining scene to visitors, and to remind locals to try something new.”

Patrons will find lunch specials featuring two courses at fixed prices of $10 and $15; with three-course dinner specials in the $10, $20, $30, and $40 range. Restaurants can choose one or any combination of those specials and offer other specials beyond these categories.

The event also features a special “Bonus Bites” category for establishments that do not offer a traditional lunch or dinner, but offer breakfast, desserts, appetizers, or small bites exclusively.

At Stovehouse in Huntsville, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, left, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle encourage visitors to take in the best food the area has to offer during Restaurant Week. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The CVB has partnered with OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation platform and the official online reservations provider for Huntsville Restaurant Week. With just a few clicks, patrons can view all participating restaurants and secure a reservation.

The CVB’s #iHeartHsv blog will feature dedicated food and beverage content throughout the month in hopes of attracting “foodie” visitors from out of town.

For information on the events of Huntsville Restaurant Week, visit huntsville.org/events/restaurant-week/.

Bon appetit Madison County! There’s some good eatin’ ahead!

Out of this World: USTA Clay Court Championships a Net Gain for Rocket City

Celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969 moon landing are in full stride in Huntsville.

Plans to honor man’s walk on the lunar surface this year have included a Guinness world record-setting attempt for simultaneous rocket launches, a celebration car show, an Apollo Homecoming Dinner and something city residents did when Huntsville-built rockets took men to the moon — dancing in the streets at the Courthouse Square.

Simultaneously, and in a more Earthly endeavor, some 350 top players from around the country are chasing USTA Girls 16-and-under National Clay Court Championships at the Athletic Club Alabama.

Play began last weekend and was scheduled to conclude this Saturday. Matches are at the ACA on Leeman Ferry Road and the city-operated Huntsville Tennis Center at John Hunt Park.

“One thing that struck me was when I drove through the parking lot at Athletic Club Alabama, I counted license plates from 18 different states – from Nevada to North Dakota,” said Mark McCarter, convention sales manager with the Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

McCarter said tournament estimates for city coffers is $600,000.

But, “frankly,” he said. “I feel it’ll be a lot larger than that. We’ve got 350 players and only two are from Alabama.”

The tournament had been at a Memphis club but, when it pulled out, bids were taken for a host city and Huntsville won over seven other finalists.

Local professional and Huntsville native Eddie Jacques, a former U18 National Clay Court Champion and All-Southeastern Conference player at Georgia, and Kelly Haynes, general manager at ACA, approached city officials to see if there was support for the event.

There was.

“It was kind of last minute and they reached out to see what help we could provide,” McCarter said.

The city worked with the pair to help with lodging taxes, meals and use of the Huntsville Tennis Center.

“It’s a really good partnership with the city of Huntsville,” he said.

And there have been chances to showcase the Rocket City.

One of the competitors held a Sweet 16 birthday party at a local establishment and the 20 tournament referees have hit a different eatery every night – two examples McCarter said of the tournament being a “great event to show off Huntsville to those who have never been here.”

There’s also the space angle.

“A cool thing was one of the girls told her mom no matter when she lost, she wanted to stay all the way to the end,” McCarter said. “That was because her two brothers were coming to Huntsville to attend Space Camp.”