Sports tourism has bright future in Williamsburg, sports development director says

Staff writer

Lisa Pacheco, director of sports development with Sports Williamsburg, discussed recent strides taken by her team and her goals for 2019 at the EDA’s monthly roundtable luncheon Tuesday.

At the meeting, Pacheco detailed the steps she’s taken to market Greater Williamsburg as a sports destination since Sports Williamsburg was formed in 2010. The focus of Sports Williamsburg is to market parks and athletic fields in Williamsburg, James City County and York County to sports tournament and event organizers in the hopes of growing overnight visitation to the area.

Pacheco said the group’s mission is to establish Greater Williamsburg as one of the state’s top five year-round destinations for sports-related tourism, grow the economic impact of sports events annually by 5 percent, maintain strong repeat sports business and build the area’s reputation for high-quality events in youth and adult sports.

“This is a phenomenal thing that’s happening for our destination,” she said.

Sports Williamsburg’s operating board includes representatives from area’s three parks and recreation departments. Other members include representatives from local lodging, attractions and dining industries, along with the College of William and Mary and local high schools, Pacheco said. The group also maintains a grant program for sports tourism-related events with a current grant budget of $100,000.

Along with fields and parks in the counties such as the James City County Rec Center, Warhill Sports Complex and York County’s Kiln Creek Park, as well as facilities at William and Mary such as Kaplan Arena, Pacheco said the city’s two main venues for sports tourism are the three lighted fields at Kiwanis Park and the Quarterpath Park Rec Center, which features an 18,000-square-foot gym and three lighted softball fields.

As Pacheco continues to market the region to tournaments and other events, she said the rest of 2019 looks bright for sports tourism.

“2019 is really looking good. I’m very excited to say that we have 74 events planned currently, and we have an event every single month, so this is making us a year-round sports destination, which is very exciting,” she said. “We also have an event in every single municipality and the College of William and Mary.”

Pacheco estimates sports-related tourism to the region in 2019 will result in 36,885 room nights and a total potential economic impact of more than $9 million.

New events coming to Williamsburg in 2019 include gymnastic Olympic qualifiers and tennis pro tournaments, but added one of the most notable sports tourism-related events coming to WIlliamsburg this year is the Ironman 70.3 Virginia qualifiers on May 5.

The triathlon race will take competitors across the James River, through James City County and along the Capitol Trail. It will serve as a qualifier for the 2019 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii later this year.

The race was restricted to 2,100 entrants, and the event’s expected economic impact totals $1.5 million, she said.

The EDA Business Roundtable Luncheon will reconvene on April 9.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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