Spokane is abuzz with its own version of March Madness this weekend.
Between the NCAA women’s basketball regional and the Pacific Northwest Qualifiers club volleyball tournament, upward of 8,000 athletes, coaches, families and spectators have descended on the city . A vacant hotel room is hard to come by at this point, and it will cost $300 or more.
What kind of economic impact these tournaments have on the community varies depending on the variables and formulas used, but one thing is certain: They continue to put Spokane on the map as a sports-friendly hub.
In its sixth year hosting, the Spokane Arena welcomes NCAA matchups Saturday between Texas A&M and Notre Dame at 1 p.m. Saturday and Central Michigan and Oregon at 3:30 p.m.. The games’ winners will face each other at 6 p.m. Monday.
As of Thursday afternoon, 4,750 tickets had been sold for the weekend’s games, and another several hundred were expected to go out as same-day buyers trickle in.
Visit Spokane estimates the economic impact from the NCAA regional to total roughly $462,000 between ticket sales, hotel stays and visits to restaurants, shopping and general recreation, public relations manager Kate Hudson said.
Based on the Spokane Sports Commission’s calculations, the estimated 2,000 visitors and 1,250 hotel stays for the NCAA regional could generate as much as $2 million, said Eric Sawyer, president and CEO.
“This is all new dollars coming in,” he said.
There remains the immeasurable impact that playing host to an NCAA tournament can have, too.
Sawyer said the NCAA regional receives about eight to 12 hours of cable television coverage. “When we get that kind of national exposure and the camera swinging back and forth across the court showing our name, ‘Spokane’ … those are positive public relations we can’t purchase,” he said.
“That’s kind of our legacy. We are a hospitable town for sports.”
Hudson also said that reputation-building, free marketing is one of the biggest takeaways from these tournaments.
“Events like this put Spokane on the map time and time again. Each time we host one, people remember it and we always host these things so well. … The national spotlight is priceless,” she said.
That perception continues to be supported, as evidenced by the PNQ volleyball tournament, which is entering its 22nd year and continues to grow every year.
Hudson said Visit Spokane’s “more reserved” approach to economic impact of events such as these estimates the PNQ will bring in about $4.5 million over the next two weekends.
“The PNQ always brings in so many people and so many visitors, it’s a big one,” she said.
The PNQ is hosting 680 teams this year spread over this weekend and next, tournament director April Stark said in an email. On Friday morning, teams took to the court at Eastern Washington University, the Spokane Convention Center and the HUB Sports Center, and will continue to play through to midafternoon Sunday. Winners earn bids to the Girls Junior National Championship this summer in Detroit.
Over both weekends, Sawyer said, about 8,000 athletes are expected to come through Spokane along with coaches and families, totaling 15,000 hotel stays. The Spokane Sports Commission estimates a $12 million economic impact for the area. The tournament brings in more visitors than either Bloomsday or Hoopfest, Sawyer said.
“Just in hotel stays, it dwarfs just about everyone else,” he added.
Looking at the impact on area hotels, the PNQ crowd stays for three days – sometimes four – over two weekends, said Josh Ewing, director of sales and marketing for the DoubleTree by Hilton at the Spokane City Center, which serves as the headquarters hotel for the PNQ tournament.
“There is no other event in Spokane like it every year,” he said. “It is fun for us, too.”
With their lobby decked out with PNQ banners and information tables and front desk staff wearing PNQ T-shirts, Ewing said the hotel hands out at least 1,000 of its coveted fresh-baked cookies on a PNQ check-in day.
He said toward the end of the week that of the 375 rooms at the DoubleTree, only a handful of single and suite rooms remained for this weekend and next, but he expected those to be snatched up as well.
Across the river, the Hotel RL by Red Lion Spokane at the Park, was also nearly sold out for the weekend. Of the 405 rooms, only 16 were available for Saturday night.
And downtown, all of the four Davenport hotels’ 1,376 guest rooms were nearly sold out for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, said Matt Jensen, corporate director of sales and marketing, adding that Sunday is likely to stay plenty busy as well.
“These hotels were built for these busy weekends,” he said. “We kind of have an all-hands-on-deck on sell-out weekends.”
Of the few rooms left for Saturday night, last-minute prices were jumping to the mid-$300 range. At the DoubleTree, prices averaged between $293 and $359, according to its online booking site. Over at the Hotel RL, prices hovered between $300 and $400, according to its website. Similar prices were seen at the Davenport hotels, aside from the Lusso, which was sold out. The Courtyard Spokane Downtown at the convention center and the Holiday Inn Express downtown location were both sold out, according to their websites.
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