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Youth sports bring big business for Wichita

Published: Nov. 6, 2017 at 6:31 PM CST
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Youth sports are big business.

"You can expect 10's of millions in economic impact annually," says Drew Hays, Sports Sales Manager for Visit Wichita.

suggests 1 in 5 American families spend more than $1,000 per month, per child, on elite level youth sports.

"I’m not surprised at all. People are spending lots of money on their son or daughter to make sure that might progress and be at the next level in sports," admits Hays.

As families invest more on their kids athletic futures, cities are fighting to position themselves as the best places for those families to spend their money.

"We look to bring in events that put heads in beds. We want people out, spending their downtime at our attractions and in restaurants," Hays explains. Everyone is benefiting in that factor.

Bob Hanson, President & CEO of the Greater Wichita Area Sports Comission, has been involved in the Wichita sports scene for two decades. He’s seen, and been a major driving force, in promoting Wichita as a youth sports destination.

"All you have to do is thinking about having a tournament with 300 teams," Hanson ponders. "Each team has 15 or 20 players on it. Do the multiplying there, and each one of those teams bring parents and grandparents. All of the sudden you have 5,000-6,000 people coming to town for the weekend. It can be huge, a huge economic impact."

Hanson says it's no surprise that families are spending more and more.

Not at all. I know what my daughters are spending for their daughters," Hanson laughs.

Wichita features not one, but two, shining new meccas for youth basketball. The Wichita Sports Forum and Wichita Hoops facilities are capable of hosting hundreds of teams, in one spot, to play multiple games in a weekend.

"I think last year, like 48 out of 52 weeks out of the year we were hosting tournaments," says Brian Hargrove, GM of the Wichita Sports Forum.

The Wichita Sports Forum, a $14 million multi-purpose facility, was financed through a star bond. Hargrove says there is no question the investment was worth it.

"It’s a tourism tax," Hargrove explains. "People coming from out of town and spending money at hotels, restaurants, gas. Basically people just coming to Wichita and spending their money."

In July, the Wichita Hoops facility hosted a premier event for Mullen Sports. That tournament put hundreds of the countries top players, and their families, in Wichita for the weekend. More than 450 college coaches and recruiters followed.

"We had people fly in, on private jets, to Jabara. Drive up Webb Road for 3 or 4 miles. Sit there and watch games all day long and then fly home," Hanson says.

An event like that might not register if you don’t have skin in the game, but with families spending thousands in hopes of attaining college scholarships... it’s an event that can make a massive impact on reputation.

Clearly, Wichita is doing well in the basketball scene. Another common event people we spoke with pointed to for high success is the KSHSAA state track meet. Areas Wichita can improve? According to people we spoke with, baseball, softball, and soccer. In regards to soccer, those improvements may be coming with the $22 million dollar facelift to the Stryker Soccer Complex.

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