The impact Friday’s figure skating news can make to Wichita’s economy
U.S. Figure Skating announced on Friday that Wichita has been selected to host regional and sectional championships in 2020 at Intrust Bank Arena, an event that is estimated to bring more than $3 million to the local economy.
Intrust Bank Arena will host the 2020 regional and sectional championships and synchronized sectional championships from Jan. 15-19, 2020 with practices taking place at the Wichita Ice Center. It is the same event that Wichita hosted earlier this year in January.
At a news conference at Intrust Bank Arena on Friday, Wichita mayor Jeff Longwell said the event only adds to an eventful 2020 for Wichita.
“By 2020, they’re going to see an entirely different city,” Longwell said. “We’re going to have a new baseball stadium that’s going to be ready to play in March of 2020. You’re going to see an entirely new city and that’s the beauty of the momentum we have in Wichita. This is an opportunity to showcase our city and encourage people to come back and share in the amenities that truly make this an inviting place.”
Local economic impact
Visit Wichita estimated before January’s U.S. Figure Skating event would attract around 6,000 visitors and generate more than $3 million in local economic impact.
The final numbers pinpointed the money generated around Wichita at $3.4 million, which is again the target for the 2020 event.
“You bring in that many outsiders and they’re going to spend money and stay at our hotels and eat at our restaurants and get gas,” said Brian Hargrave, executive director of sports development at Visit Wichita. “Like the mayor mentioned, the city is going to be completely different in 2020. We’re going to have more things that people can take part in. Any time you can bring in this amount of people to your city, it’s definitely going to help boost the city.”
While the event serves as qualifying to the national championship, hosting regional and sectional championships can have a bigger impact on cities due to more entrants. The competition is expected to attract around 160 clubs and a total of 2,500 athletes ranging from ages of 7 to 70.
A job well done in January
Longwell said on Friday that if Wichita didn’t do a good job of hosting the event in January, then U.S. Figure Skating would not be returning to the city for future events.
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith.
“We are excited to be heading back to Wichita,” Raith said in a news release. “Wichita has proven to be an excellent host for this event in the past with an electric environment, supportive community, and top-notch facilities that meet the many needs of a synchronized skating competition.”
Tammi Joseph, the vice president of the Wichita Figure Skating Club, said she has only received positive feedback from the Midwestern and Pacific Coast clubs that were in attendance.
She said in particular that the figure skaters enjoyed the quality of the facilities at Intrust Bank Arena and Wichita Ice Center, as well as how close they were to each other.
“U.S. Figure Skating had not one negative thing to say,” Joseph said. “Everything was positive, then I don’t know how many different e-mails and letters of appreciation we received from the different clubs saying how wonderful the facilities were, how well-run the event was, how it was the best event they’ve been to. I think they’ll be excited to come back.”
Bringing awareness to figure skating
Joseph said that figure skating is an often overlooked sport.
Bringing such a big-time event to Wichita will only help with its exposure.
“A lot of times people will say, ‘You skate here?,’” Joseph said. “It will be really fun. It’s really fun to watch and there’s just a really good energy in the building.”
The synchronized skating portion in January was particularly a hit with fans. The sport features teams of up to 20 skaters performing themed routines set to all different types of music. U.S. Figure Skating claims it is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world.
The top four teams from each division will earn a berth to the 2018 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships.
“Wichita is excited to again welcome U.S. Figure Skating, and we look forward to providing a fantastic and energetic welcome to sports fans from across the country,” Visit Wichita president Susie Santo said in a written statement. “Visitors will not only enjoy mesmerizing synchronized skating competitions while they are here, but also the city’s numerous amenities and well-known hospitality.”