UHV Tournament hits home run for local economy

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

May 5, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

After a long trip from Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio-Dominican Panthers needed some fuel for their Wednesday mid-morning practice.

A stop at a Victoria McDonald's for breakfast was just what they needed to prepare for their six-team softball tournament, which begins Thursday.

The University of Houston-Victoria softball team is both playing in and sponsoring the tournament, which is not only boosting the image of the soon-to-be four-year institution, but the local economy as well.

"Obviously, feeding the kids every day is a lot of expense," said Panthers head coach Marcella Vanlandingham. "We want to try to find something unique to try. Something unique to Victoria."

Four of the teams flew in to Houston and San Antonio, and rented vans to travel into Victoria, said Ashley Walyuchow, UHV athletic director.

"I think it's pretty significant," Walyuchow said about the economic impact the tournament will have on Victoria.

Walyuchow has a conservative estimate that 500 people from out of town, including players, parents and fans, will be in Victoria for the tournament.

He also expects the vans to at least fuel up one last time before heading back to each airport, he said.

On top of traveling, eating out on the town and shopping around during the three-day tournament, the six teams are also staying at four local hotels.

The tournament helps boost weekend occupancy as well as revenue for the Hampton Inn, said Jeremy Perez, general manager.

With eight rooms being occupied at $85 a room through the end of the week and into the weekend, the revenue ranks in at just over the $500 mark, Perez said.

"Victoria's a corporate market, so usually the weekdays are pretty busy and the weekends are what need help," he said.

The Louisiana State University at Alexandria softball team is staying at the Inn.

Softball teams from Simon-Fraser University, Ohio-Dominican University, University of British Columbia and California State University - San Marcos are at three other hotels.

Apart from those teams, fans and players' family members will pay for tickets and buy foods at concession stands, which also helps add to Victoria's revenue, Perez said.

"It's going to help boost not only the hotel industry but restaurant industry, maybe even shopping and just kind of bringing an awareness to Victoria," Perez said.

Randy Vivian, president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said a tourist, on average, is expected to spend about $125 a day, that's including food, transportation and any lodging expenses.

Vivian was unable to crunch numbers specifically on the benefit a tournament like this could add to the sales tax revenue.

"What happens is those individuals come in and spend money in the community," he said in a phone interview. "These are ways that tourism, and this would be considered tourism, helps the local population."

Increasing the sales tax revenue through enough tourism can, in theory, also help lower the tax rate, Vivian added.

For the Panthers, the unconscious impact they will have on the city's economy is far from their minds.

Having fun on the field and vying to win the tournament is what it's all about right now.

"It's a positive impact, especially if the community gets behind the tournament here," Vanlandingham said as her team continued their practice at the O'Connor Athletic Complex. "I don't think there can be any negative impact on the community."



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