The impact of sports on the local economy and quality of life in the Peoria area is vast and multi-faceted.

Peoria has long been known every bit a dedicated sports town. Several years ago, a
SportsBusiness Journal
survey ranked Peoria 6th in the nation amidst minor league sports markets. Another study from a few years back calculated the almanac financial impact of sports on the Peoria-expanse economic system at a cool $61 1000000. Certainly, there is no question that sports is a major office of the local economic system—and in ways that the average person may not consider.

At the professional level, the Peoria Chiefs and Peoria Rivermen, affiliates of the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Blues respectively, are the region’s most visible sports clubs. At the college level, Bradley Academy sports offers a potent legacy, most notably with its men’due south basketball game program, but also in softball, baseball game, soccer and more than.

There is, of course, the IHSA Boys’ Basketball Tournament, i of the nation’s premier scholastic sporting events, which has drawn tens of thousands of spectators to the Peoria Civic Center for each of the past 16 years.

Each June, the Steamboat Classic attracts athletes from all over the world. Several of the elite runners at Steamboat take gone on to fix world records and win Olympic medals—garnering international recognition for Peoria.

And this August, nearly 35,000 spectators will attend the Grand National TT Motorbike Races, injecting hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economic system.

Major sporting events are a magnet for attracting visitors—and those valuable tourism dollars. Our professional person teams create a direct economical touch on with their paid staff and the athletes who alive here. Our loftier schools, colleges, universities and other organizations that conduct sporting events back up staff and facilities, and brand purchases from local sports retailers. And there are many other, less quantifiable benefits of sports on the region—ranging from quality-of-life bug to the introduction of Peoria to exterior visitors—all of which aid local employers in their recruiting and retentiveness efforts.

Underdog Attractions

In because the impact of sports, the natural trend is to focus on the highly visible events. Just about everyone understands the significance of the IHSA basketball tournament, for case, but fifty-fifty within the realm of high school sports, other events may well have an equally large touch on on the region—and in particular, the tourism and hospitality industry.

One event that has been close to my middle for many years is the IHSA State Cross State Championships, held at Peoria’s Detweiller Park every November since 1970. This event is unique because it’southward the only IHSA sport that includes all three classes and both genders competing at the same venue on the same day. That adds up to near 1,200 competitors—far more participants than a 12-on-12 game of basketball.

These 1,200 kids—forth with their coaches, parents, friends and other supporters—will visit central Illinois, with estimates of total attendance ranging from xx,000 to 25,000. Many will stay overnight, and some volition stay for multiple nights. While the event is on Saturday morning, quite a few will come up to town on Th afternoon. And while they’re here, they will visit local restaurants, purchase gas at local stations, and patronize area retailers.

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In the months leading upwards to the championships, area schools host four large high schoolhouse invitational meets, which likewise draw meaning numbers of visitors. The Woodruff Invitational and Notre Dame Invitational each bring more than 3,000 participants to the surface area. Peoria High hosts an invitational with about 600 participants, while Peoria Heights hosts an result for the smaller schools with another 600 participants. These events thrive because teams from across the state want to gain exposure to the course at Detweiller.

During each of these events, significant numbers of people will fill expanse hotel beds. But even when at that place are non overnight stays, but about everyone volition eat a repast or two at restaurants and fill their cars with gas before leaving town.

Success Begets Success

The slap-up success of the IHSA Cross Land and Boys’ Basketball Championships has helped attract other collegiate events with their own meaning impact on the area economy. In the past decade, Bradley has hosted the NCAA Regional Cross Country Championships, with shut to 500 athlete participants. Schools participating in the result include half of the Large 10, half of the Big 12 and nearly all of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Nether the leadership of Athletics Director Sue Sinclair, Illinois Central Higher has been very agile in hosting National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) title events, from women’s basketball to volleyball. In 2009, the junior college also hosted the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships. In addition to the impact on expanse hotels and restaurants, many of these participants wing into Peoria’s airport, rent vehicles and charter shuttle services.

This June, the IHSA Class A and AA State Baseball game Finals will come to Peoria’s O’Brien Field for the offset time. Peoria last hosted the IHSA Baseball Tournament in 1977, and it will host the finals for the next five years.

Did you know that the largest activity conducted by the IHSA is not fifty-fifty a sports upshot at all? It’s the annual IHSA Chess Tournament that takes place at the Civic Eye—and it brings thousands of participants to central Illinois.

All of these events are fabricated possible because of the corking reputation and stiff working partnerships that Peoria has congenital upwardly with sports organizations like the IHSA over time. And these are just a handful of examples of lesser-known sports activities that brand a huge impact on the area.

A Network of Sports Business

In add-on to the economic impact of the events themselves, measured in local tourism dollars, there are many other less tangible benefits. These state and national tournaments and other events introduce loftier school and higher-age kids to Peoria. For many, this is their first exposure to the area. A positive get-go impression helps Bradley University recruit students, and it helps Caterpillar and other major employers recruit employees to the area.

Our wealth of sporting events for both spectators and participants supports the recruiting and retention efforts of these organizations by enhancing the region’southward quality of life. To attract people to the area, there must be things to do and places to go. Sports fans in Peoria are afforded the take chances to come across the next Major League Baseball or NHL star, while Steamboat participants can run right alongside Olympians. And with employers encouraging their employees and families to be more than physically agile, the area’south many running, walking and bicycling events provide great opportunities to get fit—and raise coin for good causes at the same time.

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So there are our local sports specialty retailers, whose entire businesses are based effectually sports. Running Fundamental, Bushwhacker, Illinois Valley Cycle, Russell’south Cycling, 4 Kicks, Little Ade’s Bicycles, Illini Golf, Mullvain Motorsports and Grayboy Motorsports are amongst those that cater to the region’south athletic needs, in improver to providing valuable support and sponsorships.

Take Running Central, for case. The store is now one of the tiptop v specialty run retailers in the country for selling Reebok products. Reebok now uses its partnership with Running Central, the Illinois Valley Striders and the Steamboat Classic as a model for its event sponsorship activities.

In fact, Peoria is recognized nationally for its successful sports-based fundraising. Many local not-for-profit and volunteer organizations conduct sports events as a office of their signature fundraising activities. The largest participatory sports event in the region is the Komen Race for the Cure. In its 26-yr history, this event has raised millions of dollars for breast cancer awareness and breast health initiatives, the majority of which are returned to the surface area in the form of grants to local agencies. The St. Jude Memphis to Peoria Run and its various satellite runs have raised millions of dollars for the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate at Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

The region as well boasts a knowledgeable sports medicine industry that understands both injury prevention and care. Organizations like Great Plains Sports Medicine and Midwest Orthopaedic employ many local people—and even take a global reach. The late Dr. Bernie Cahill, who helped form Peachy Plains, was a pioneer in the field. A fellow member of the College of Sports Medicine Hall of Fame, he taught many physicians and able-bodied trainers throughout the country, and his pedagogy had an impact on the curricula at the Academy of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.

All of these dissimilar areas of sports business help to reinforce each other and spawn organic growth in many dissimilar ways.

Why It Plays in Peoria

The growing number of sporting events that take place hither don’t happen by accident. Too financial support from expanse businesses, the Peoria surface area offers iii key strengths that make these events piece of work well and give our region a competitive advantage. These are: our
, our
and our

With its central location in the Eye of Illinois, Peoria is easily accessible to the residuum of the state—and the country. Nearly half of the country’southward population lives within a day’s bulldoze of the region. With direct flights to eight U.S. cities, the Full general Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport allows united states of america to attract national events too, such as the NCAA Regional Cross State Championships hosted by Bradley University.

The Peoria area offers a variety of facilities that work very well for these events—the Civic Eye and downtown hotels, Detweiller and other area parks, Eastside Middle, O’Brien Field and Shea Stadium amongst them. When the Civic Eye hosts the IHSA basketball championships, the weekend is not limited to competitive basketball game; it as well includes the March Madness Feel and all that accompanies it. Information technology’s rare to detect an arena that’s likewise continued to an exhibit hall—non many venues could showcase both.

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East Peoria’s EastSide Centre is a superb facility, hosting the IHSA Country Softball Championships each year, likewise equally the National Softball Clan’s Super World Series, and many other tournaments and competitions. Across the river in Mossville, the Midwest Sports Circuitous is one of the largest privately owned soccer facilities in the country, hosting tournaments and leagues throughout the flavor.

Finally, primal Illinois is rich in the spirit of volunteerism, and our volunteers are perhaps
fundamental reason that sports events work so well here. Great credit should be given to the Peoria Surface area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Peoria Area Sports Commission for landing those events, simply allow’s non forget the importance of the many affiliated organizations that bring out their volunteers to help facilitate them. Local soccer, running and cycling clubs, for example, are essential in attracting, hosting and conducting these big-scale events.

The IHSA basketball game tournament works so well in part because it uses the same game management crew every bit Bradley does, all of whom are volunteers—and among the finest in the country. This makes the conducting of two weekends of basketball tournaments efficient and effective, both for the IHSA and the community, and that has allowed the IHSA to become very confident conducting its championship events here. Similarly, at the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships, ICC used essentially the same crew of volunteers that manage the IHSA and Bradley cantankerous-state meets.

The Peoria Park Commune is another essential collaborative partner. They are involved in almost all of these big events and activities in some manner, from providing facilities and professional staff to marketing and volunteer coordination. The Peoria Police Department and the City of Peoria’s City Services Departments also play vital, often unrecognized, roles in the success of these large events.

Impact Far and Broad

Every bit you tin can see, the impact of sports on central Illinois goes far beyond what can be quantified, or what is highly visible. Its value to the region extends into areas that the average person may not fifty-fifty consider.
Who’south to know that ane of the parents at this year’s cross-country championships is not also the decision maker at a company looking at options for relocation? A positive experience at Detweiller Park in November could mean a new company opening up shop in the Warehouse Commune in March. That may seem like a stretch, simply those things do happen. And nosotros will owe it all to the hospitality of our defended volunteers, the outstanding quality of our facilities, and a long rails record of success in the sports arena.

Philip Lockwood has been at the intersection of sports and business for many years. He is vice president of IPICO Sports and race director for the world-renowned Steamboat Archetype and Race for the Cure.