A Publication of WTVP

Sports event travel is a $27 billion a year industry in the United States, with more than 75 million adults attending a competition or tournament within the last five years.

In 1993, the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau recognized the value of sports travel when the Prairie State Games came to town, and we formed an umbrella organization now known as the Peoria Area Sports Commission. As one of the first such commissions in the state, the Peoria Area CVB is now a member of Sports Illinois and the National Association of Sports Commissions.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, sports event travelers are more likely than all U.S. travelers to originate from and travel to the Midwest census region. These travelers visit sports events as either spectators or as participants within a minimum of a 50-mile distance from home.

What does all of this mean for the Peoria area? A projected economic impact of more than $5.6 million in 2001 alone. Of course, since 1996, the Illinois High School Association’s Boys Class A and AA state basketball tournaments have been our single largest sports event draw, and this year we add IHSA’s Class A and AA girls softball tournaments to the list for the next five years. Located at EastSide Center in East Peoria, the softball tournaments are expected to bring in more than 5,000 attendees over the course of two weekends each year.

Keeping up with the momentum of IHSA tournaments, the Peoria Area CVB’s sports marketing department has been targeting several national and Midwestern sports associations with tremendous success. Groups such as the Amateur Athletic Union, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and USA Volleyball conduct several regional events annually. In 2001, the Peoria area will be home to 48 regional sports events that will draw attendees and spectators from across the Midwest, in addition to home games for Bradley University, the Peoria Chiefs, the Peoria Rivermen and the Peoria Pirates.

Besides bringing in sports events from outside of the Peoria area, the Bureau also has been an active part of the growth of locally planned events that bring in sports travelers. These include the Classic Sports Festival, which has grown to include a variety of high caliber events; the Sporting Futbol Club, which brings in soccer players and their families from all over the Midwest; and the Grand National TT Races, which celebrated their 50th anniversary three years ago and is still one of the nation’s highest attended motorcycle races.

Additional areas the Peoria Area CVB sports marketing team is looking at include cheerleading and drill team competitions, along with new track and field events. As demonstrated by the national trends, any event that draws young athletes to an area also draws a bigger spectator base, resulting in a higher economic impact.

The Peoria Area CVB is on the leading edge of building the impact the sports market can have on the Peoria area. IBI