Visitors traveling to Kalamazoo to participate in sporting events spent $28.7 million last year, as sports tourism locally returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Discover Kalamazoo says the direct visitor spending and the resulting economic impact came from the more than 36,000 youth, amateur and professional athletes who competed in more than 60 sporting events during 2022. The visitor spending went toward lodging, transportation, food and beverage, retail, recreation, space rental, and other business services, according to Discover Kalamazoo, the county’s convention and visitors bureau.
“As we look to the future, our goal is to continue building upon a strong foundation of annual and recurring sports events in our community as well as look at ways to diversify what sports events we attempt to bring to the community,” Brian Persky, director of business development at Discover Kalamazoo, said in a statement. “We’re extremely fortunate in Kalamazoo to have some of the country’s most highly respected youth sports organizations, and our community is the ultimate beneficiary from these successful partnerships.”
The biggest economic effects came from the Midwest & Pacific Coast Synchronized Sectional Championships that the Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association hosted at Wings Event Center in late January. The event drew nearly 2,500 competitors, coaches and personnel that accounted for 2,800 room nights and nearly $3.7 million in direct economic effects.
A national championship youth hockey tournament held at the Wings Event Center and Wings West in late March and early April attracted nearly 1,300 athletes, coaches, and event personnel, generating 3,100 hotel room nights and an estimated $2 million direct spending.
Sporting events booked in Kalamazoo for 2023 include the return of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s team wrestling finals at the end of this month, a curling mixed doubles championships at Wings Event Center from Feb. 28 through March 4, the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee presented by The Kalamazoo Promise at Chenery Auditorium on March 4, and the U.S. Tennis Association’s Boys’ 18 & 16 National Championships that returns for the 80th straight year at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium, Western Michigan University and Loy Norrix High School.
In the Grand Rapids area, the West Michigan Sports Commission in January reported a record year for local sports tourism in 2022, as MiBiz previously reported. A record number of events generated $90.5 million in direct visitor spending, up by roughly 65 percent from 2019 and 2021.
The West Michigan Sports Commission hosted 113 youth and amateur sporting events in 2022 that drew 38-percent more athletes and visitors compared to 2021, while the number of hotel rooms booked increased by 41 percent compared to 2021.