Sports Tourism Mainstay for Richmond Business, Local Leaders Say
By Anna Akins, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 15, 2016
When lacrosse isn’t demanding their time, they said they plan on exploring the Richmond area by trying out the local food scene, touring some museums and visiting other local attractions.
The Sheedys are a part of a group of more than 15,000 people who are in the Richmond region for the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association STX Capital Cup tournament at River City Sportsplex in Chesterfield County.
The tournament is part of a booming sports tourism industry that brings in tens of millions of dollars per year for the Richmond-area economy, according to a panel of local business leaders who gathered Friday at The Boathouse at Sunday Park restaurant in Chesterfield.
The panel, hosted by Richmond Region Tourism, featured Neil Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels, which has 33 hotels in the Richmond region; Amy DuFour, director of marketing for Capital Ale House, a restaurant and brewery with three Richmond locations; and Bill Karn, president of US Lacrosse’s Richmond Chapter. There are 67 other chapters across the nation.
Amin, DuFour and Karn agreed during a panel discussion that each segment of Richmond’s economy thrives on sports tourism.
Amin said that sporting events such as the Capital Cup are lifesavers for the local hotel industry during the summer.
“Historically in our region, July has not been a very strong month,” he said. “Because of Capital Cup, it has become one of the strongest months of the year. There’s definitely a tremendous impact.”
DuFour added that much of Capital Ale House’s marketing efforts go toward youth sporting events.
“Youth sports travel teams are such a huge market segment that we cater specifically to them,” she said. “We have come up with a sports banquet menu for teams and sell a bunch of Virginia craft beer to coaches and parents.”
Karn emphasized his firsthand experience with youth sports and its impact on the local economy.
“Being a sports parent and coach, I see a number of people who attend these events,” he said. “They draw people to the area.”
Looking ahead, the panelists emphasized the importance of continuing to promote sports tourism within the region.
“It’s not just a one-year deal,” Amin said. “You want (sports teams) to come back and to bring others with them. It’s just about educating them about all that we have in the region.”
Those in attendance to hear the panel discussion included a mix of business leaders from Richmond as well as Hanover, Chesterfield and Henrico counties. After the panel discussion, attendees toured the Sportsplex and heard from Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Executive Director Gothard Lane, who further stressed the importance of promoting Richmond’s sports tourism industry.
“You’re looking at 15 to 18,000 people who have ventured into the Richmond region for this tournament,” he said. “Everyone — hotels, restaurants and shops — benefits from this.”
Capital Cup tournament action began Thursday and will conclude Sunday.
Other events contributing to sports tourism in the Richmond area include NASCAR races, the Washington Redskins’ training camp, soccer and baseball tournaments and the Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball team