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Wrestling Turnout Helps Pave Way For Future Amateur Athletic Events

Inland Northwest sports fans set an Olympic record for paid attendance at the U.S. freestyle wrestling trials in Spokane.

Sports promoter Toby Steward of Star USA, the man chiefly responsible for bringing the U.S. Olympic wrestle-off to Spokane, reports the previous two-day paid attendance record, set in 1992 by Pittsburgh, was 10,000.

Last week the Spokane Arena packed in two and a half times as many - a total of 24,578 fans.

“Holy cats!” exclaimed Martha Lou Wheatley, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, when she heard the figure.

Before the event, the bureau calculated 10,000 attendance would have an economic impact on the overall business community of roughly half a million bucks ($533,333). So with actual attendance two and a half times the number projected, it follows that economic impact could well approach $1.5 million.

Not even close, says Wheatley. A visitor industry formula for calculating economic impact puts the actual figure at $737,339 - less than half what you might expect.

But both tourism promoter Wheatley and sports promoter Steward agree that by far the greatest economic impact will accrue from the national exposure that Spokane receives by obliterating the old attendance record.

Steward reports Sports Illustrated, USA Today, CNN, ESPN, ESPN II, and several others media giants are giving Spokane invaluable national exposure. This will make it much easier in the future to book major amateur athletic events in Spokane.

But in terms of immediate economic impact, it is the Daughters of the Nile who are big news. Some 2,800 delegates to the Supreme Temple’s annual North American Convention are spending $3 million.

“The Red Lion City Center is utterly awash in sequins and maribou feathers,” says Wheatley. “These ladies came prepared, with six or eight ballgowns apiece for each of the different events in which they participate.”

Hotel help had to rush out and buy thousands more hangers for the guest rooms. Downtown hair stylists and dry cleaners are in seventh heaven.

Next year will be even busier. The Eagles are coming back. Two years ago, 4,000 delegates spent over $4.5 million.

Also next year, Spokane will play host for half a month to the world convention of Subud International, a global philosophic organization. With 3,000 delegates from 80 countries, it will be worth $6 million to the Spokane business community.

Tourism workshop scheduled

More than 75 business and economic development executives from communities throughout North Idaho and Eastern Washington will learn how to use tourism to boost their local economies at a daylong meeting June 21.

The workshop is for members of the Inland Northwest Partnership, founded by Washington Water Power Co.’s economic development department. The session is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Schweitzer Mountain Resort at Sandpoint.

“We’ll hear from local communities such as Leavenworth, Wallace, Silverwood and Sandpoint which have demonstrated successfully how communities can be revitalized through tourism,” says WWP community development specialist Joe Tortorelli.

For more information, call (509) 482-4064.

‘Workfare’ programs win kudos

With the emergence of welfare reform as a presidential campaign issue, two Northwest projects are demonstrating the positive results that “workfare” can achieve, according to the Washington Research Council.

“Work is better than welfare,” says a special report by the heavily business-funded think tank, “and the ultimate indicator of success for a welfare program is the number of people who leave it for jobs.”

To that end, the non-partisan research group applauds a non-profit private program called Washington Works in Seattle and Oregon’s JOBS Plus project.

In Seattle, 12 weeks of intensive training for women on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) produces capable and dependable employees ready for entry-level positions.

“They have a placement rate of 80 percent, with 85 percent of those placements being to full-time positions,” research revealed. “The rate of those still off public assistance after 12 months is 87 percent, compared to 55 percent nationally. Washington Works graduates have a greater tendency to stay with their first employer - 65 percent compared to 27 percent nationally.”

In Oregon, JOBS Plus requires able-bodied adults on public assistance to work for their benefits, and pays businesses to give them a chance. Welfare recipients give up their Food Stamps and AFDC checks in exchange for paychecks. The savings goes to reimburse businesses for wages and payroll taxes.

“As labor force attachment programs like Washington Works and Oregon’s JOBS Plus begin to show long-term results, workfare programs may become more popular,” ventures the research council. “Leadership may even find that they have more goals in common than originally thought.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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Early exit polls show strong support to lift Ireland ban on abortion

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.