State Games a big tourism weekend for Pikes Peak area

Filed under: Daily News,News | Tags:,
The Rocky Mountain State Games is one of the city’s top revenue-generating events.

The Rocky Mountain State Games is one of the city’s top revenue-generating events.

The Rocky Mountain State Games were expected to generate $6.5 million in economic activity over the course of the three-day event this past weekend.

That makes the games, hosted by The Colorado Springs Sports Corp., one of the city’s top revenue-generating events.

By comparison, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which happens to draw an international crowd, generated about $1 million in business for area hotels, restaurants and other businesses over its four days earlier this summer.

Nearly 6,000 athletes and 9,000 family members are expected to descend on the city for the Rocky Mountain State Games, which run through Sunday.

These visitors are expected to shop at gift stores, wine and dine at area restaurants, check in to hotels and visit some of the Pikes Peak region’s attractions.

Many of the out-of-town athletes combine the event with a vacation, bringing the entire family along as spectators and tourists, spending even more time and money in the Springs.

So, while the mission of The Sports Corp., a nonprofit, is to promote amateur sports, it also brings millions of dollars to the local economy.

“Box office is not our mission,” said Mike Moran, a spokesman for the Sports Corp. “But we’re thrilled that it has an economic impact on the community.”

Across the city, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions are bringing in additional staff for the weekend. Those that aren’t may be caught unprepared.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort is in close proximity to the event’s basketball, golf and wrestling competitions.

The resort will have a booth at the opening ceremonies in hopes of drawing guests to its restaurants and bars. Such sporting events keep the city “forefront and top of mind” as a destination to other Coloradans, said John Branciforte, vice president of marketing for the resort.

Just up the street from the resort, at Walter’s Bistro, a fine-dining restaurant, manager Doug Zalnis also expects to attract business because of the games.

And in the north part of the city, just a few miles from numerous sporting events at the Air Force Academy, several hotels say their bookings were helped by the games.

Just how much remains to be seen.

That’s because many people these days don’t make reservations directly. Instead they use online aggregate services. So it’s hard to track beforehand how many people come to town for the event, said Suzanne Gerdes, associate director of sales for the Colorado Springs Marriott. Gerdes also is commissioner of track and field events for the games.

But hotels have been fielding calls about venues and locations.

The Hilton Garden Inn North and Homewood Suites North expect to see many athletes and family members, said Glenda Gaida, sales manager for both properties.

“But typically, we don’t know how many until we see them leaving (for the competitions) in the morning in their uniforms,” Gaida said.

Although downtown usually draws much of the dinner business when large events are in town, the Rocky Mountain games are different than other sporting events, because they are geographically spread out.

Athletes will compete in more than 30 sports at 25 venues across the city, including the Air Force Academy, Lewis Palmer High School, Olympic Training Center, Sertich Ice Center and the Special Events Center at Fort Carson.

The opening ceremonies are a big draw, too.

Each year, the Sports Corp.’s goal is to fill the Colorado Springs World Arena for the ceremonies, which it generally does.

Indeed, those ceremonies hold the city record for the largest crowd at the World Arena — 10,007 attendees in 2007 for the State Games of America, and 9,522 for the same event in 2009.

Last year, the larger State Games of America, also hosted by The Sports Corp., was one of the city’s largest events, in terms of out-of-town visitors and dollars spent in the community. About 25,000 visitors spent nearly $11 million during the three-day event, according to an independent economic analysis commissioned by The Sports Corp.

“Everybody feels a little love for this event — hotels, restaurants, gift shops and attractions,” Moran said.

This year, athletes from 125 cities and towns in Colorado and Wyoming will compete in the Rocky Mountain games.

The operating budget for the games is about $1 million. Roughly one-third of that comes from sponsorships, another third from in-kind donations and the final third from entry fees, ticket tales, merchandise sales and opening-ceremony ticket sales.

“If we break even on all of our expenses, including staff time, then it’s a real success for us,” said Tom Osborne, CEO of The Sports Corp.

“But the big winner in the event is the city of Colorado Springs,” he said.