When the U.S. Figure Skating Championships unfold here in January, the one certain winner will be Spokane. The 10-day competition is expected to have a $25.7 million economic impact on this area, according to the city and the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. The forecast is based partly on the city having hosted the 2007 event. The bureau’s president and CEO Harry Sladich sat down to discuss skating and selling Spokane.
Q.How big is the skating championships for Spokane?
A.It’s big. It’s very big. And I think this community is taking for granted how big it is because we got it back.
Q.What does hosting an event of this magnitude do for our image?
A.It tells us that we are capable of not only hosting but executing nationally recognized events. This is an event that’s televised nationally and internationally. And so it says to people who might consider bringing an event here, “I’ve got to pause and take another look at that, because if they’ve hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships or NCAA basketball then this is a community that’s bigger than I thought, is more capable than I thought, and I need to take a look.”
For us, that’s all we need. Spokane is such an unknown still on the national stage that we just want them to come take a look. And we know that if we can get them off the airplane, we’ve got a really good chance. It’s just getting over that first perception of “Why would I even want to go there?”
Q.What would you say to someone who thinks the skating championships might be good for hotel operators but not everyone else?
A.Everything starts with a visit. You cannot have a person look at moving their business here, move their family here, have their convention here without a visit. So what this does for us is it enhances the ability for a visit.
Beyond that and beyond the money dropped by visitors, people working here in January – earning tips and wages – spend that money throughout the community.
Q.Why do convention planners decide to bring gatherings here?
A.They realize that they truly will be the star of the show in our community. When you go to Seattle or Portland, you’ve got many things going on. Figure skating will own our community. Spokane can still create an intimate and exceptional event. Figure skating’s back because we broke all records. And the skaters said they have never felt more embraced in their entire careers.
Q.What can people do to help sell this city?
A.Well, number one, believe in Spokane. And always show up. Wear the buttons. Buy the tickets. Deliver the excellent service. And if we do that, then we can’t lose.
Q.What will the TV audience see in January?
A.“ www.visitspokane.com” at center ice.