Greater Burlington as a Sports Hub

In our ongoing effort of promoting job growth and economic development in Southeast Iowa, Restoring Iowa Jobs wants to give guest contributors a platform to talk about their organization or business on our blog.

This week’s guest contributor is Jason Hutcheson, President & CEO of the Greater Burlington Partnership!

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Over time, I think a larger percentage of the community has come to realize the impact of the tourism industry on Greater Burlington.  In the last reportable year, more than $121 million were spent county-wide on tourism-related expenditures.  That is a big number, and since 2009, it has grown by nearly 30%.

Growth is no accident nor does it happen in a vacuum.  Although meetings, conference, and business travel are all important components of our visitor travel, there is one segment that stands out above the rest: sports.

As the father of a recent Mudd Dawg recruit, I can personally attest to the power of team travel.  Fortunately for my pocketbook, many of our games this summer will be played locally.  When we will travel, however, those will be expensive weekends.  In addition to the Friday and Saturday night hotel rooms, my family will want fed, they will need to be entertained during the down times, and my son will invariably forget his shoes on at least one occasion.  Multiply my family’s expenditures by the number of kids on the team and then again by the number of teams at a tournament, and you are talking about real money.

With our Rec/Plex, Greater Burlington is a huge beneficiary of tournaments- baseball, softball, soccer, and others.  In fact, two of the most often heard complaints are the shortage of parking spots and the long lines at the concession stand.  Both are good problems to have.

This year, the both the NJCCA Men’s Golf Championship and the Big 10 Golf Championship will take place at Spirit Hollow.  Already underway is the Iowa Bowling Association’s men’s state tournament- bringing 400+ participants and family to the community for 15 weekends- that’s an estimated 3,500 hotel rooms over the course of the tournament.

Also, consider Community Field and the Burlington Bees.  Not only do we receive traffic from visitors, but we also offer a wonderful amenity to our locals.  Have you priced Cardinals tickets lately?  Cheap seats at Busch Stadium will cost you $70, yet I can take my entire family to community field and feed them for less than half of that.

As you can see, sports are big business to our community.  Our Convention & Visitors Bureau has worked to establish a sports commission with the hopes of encouraging even more activity.  Last year, they applied for and received a $50,000 state grant to continue building the industry.  Nine local events will receive funding under the grant to bring nearly 26,000 attendees.  Kudos to those involved.

As I hope you have heard by now, there is a group actively working on an indoor recreational facility featuring multi-purpose space for a variety of sporting events.  This makes sense for so many reasons.  An indoor facility will build on our growing sports tourism industry and will extend the potential for team travel well into the winter months.  There will be costs involved, but the group is exploring a variety of avenues to finance the project.

Just like those who paved the way for the Rec/Plex, this group will encounter challenges.  But in a few years, we will be thanking them for a job well done.  I can’t wait for ground to be broken.

Jason Hutcheson
President & CEO
Greater Burlington Partnership
610 N. 4th St, Suite 200
Burlington, Iowa 52601
Main Line: 319.752.6365
Direct: 319.208.0043
Fax: 319.752.6454