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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.”

Rain Delays Opening Multi-Sports Venue at Site of Former Becky Peirce Golf Course

Huntsvillians hoping to check out the new multi-sports complex at the old Becky Peirce Municipal Golf Course before summer turns to fall might need to do a reverse rain dance.

Ongoing rain that left the city soaked for much of last fall and this past spring has delayed progress at the venue. While some contractors have reported they still plan to meet target dates, the massive amount of dirt being moved at the old course at the corner of Airport Road and South Memorial Parkway has left a quagmire of sorts that has substantially slowed development.

“If we didn’t have any rain, we’d be through,’’ said Steve Ivey, director of the City of Huntsville Parks and Recreation. “As it is, we’re about six weeks behind, and that’s being kind to the contractors. If we got out there with heavy trucks, we’d tear things up and have to start over.’’

Ivey said a target opening date is somewhere in the middle of summer.

“If you can promise me it won’t rain, I could give you a date,’’ he said.

The landmark rocket stands guard over the work at the new multisports complex

Plans are for the complex to feature a cross-country course, paved walking trail, dirt bike trail, disc golf courses, sand volleyball courts, golf driving range and a dog park.

For now, William Bell, the facility project coordinator, said the focus is on getting the grass-covered cross-country course and the walking trail ready for use. Next on his priority list is the dirt bike circuit, which is still in designing stages.

He said the cross-country course and walking trails are 75 to 80 percent complete.

“The biggest thing right now is getting a retaining wall around pond No. 1, and we’ve got three ponds,” he said. “The Lord has taken care of us pretty well up to this point. It could have been worse. We’re doing all we can.”

The cross-country course sod was placed late last month.

The Huntsville Sports Commission is charged with bringing events to the city.

“We’re going to schedule a lot of things there,’’ said Commission Director Ralph Stone. “Our role will be to identify and recruit events to pay for the thing.’’

A main attraction the sports commission will focus on right away is the cross-country course, which Stone said will be “world class.’’

“There will be opportunities for several sports there once it gets rolling,’’ he said.