March is coming in like a lion, as far as the Spokane Sports Commission is concerned.
In its busiest March ever, the organization helped bring eight sporting events to Spokane. This month it expects to add at least $11.4 million to the local economy. That includes hotel stays for an estimated 9,290 athletes and more than 11,000 spectators, as well as shopping and restaurant visits.
On the calendar are the usual big hits of March: the State B basketball tournament, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Pacific Northwest Qualifier volleyball tournament. But there are also new events such as the West Coast Conference Wheelchair Basketball Championships and the Washington state Middle School Basketball Championships.
“It’s normally a busy time,” said Brad Moeller, vice president of sports development for the Sports Commission. “It’s the start of March Madness. This one just happened to be the best ever. This is the most tourism that has ever been generated in the month of March.”
North Idaho College athletic director Al Williams credits the Sports Commission with helping him land a bid to host the National Junior College Athletic Association National Wrestling Championships going on this weekend at the Spokane Convention Center.
“The Sports Commission is more than just Spokane,” he said.
“We could not do this without their assistance.”
The Convention Center is in an ideal location, surrounded by hotels, restaurants and shopping, Williams said. The airport is close by.
Williams said in his experience people visit Spokane for the tournament and enjoy it so much they come back for a visit.
The tournament was last hosted here in 2011.
The fans packing the bleachers at Saturday’s semifinal wrestling matches did indeed seem to enjoy themselves, shouting advice, encouragement and the occasional question about the eyesight of a referee.
The tournament brought in about 240 athletes from 39 schools across the country.
The March sporting events always have a good economic impact, said Tim Robinson, Visit Spokane spokesman. His organization focuses more on attracting conventions, meetings and tourism, he said. The Sports Commission is the “lead dog” on bringing in sporting events, Robinson said.
“They are, I think, to be applauded in bringing those events here,” he said.