Sports tourism

Thousands of athletes are in Little Rock for a 5 day national basketball tournament. Hotels are booked, tables at restaurants are full, and local businesses love it.

More and more sports championships are come to the area, making Little Rock a major destination for sports tourism.

The 9th Annual AAU Boys 9th Grade Division I National Championships includes 81 teams from 21 states playing 235 games over 5 days in Little Rock.

Henry Forrest, the tournament chairman, credits the community, the city, and the people for bringing the tournament back for two more years. “If you go to New York, people don’t speak to each other. You come to Arkansas and everybody will speak to you. It’s friendly here and the teams really enjoy it.”

3,000-5,000 people are in town for the tournament and all need a place to stay, eat, and things to do during their down time. The Crowne Plaza Hotel rooms are full and Beth Boyd, Corporate Director of Sales and Services, says the staff loves having the teams stay. “Little Rock has been a mecca for sports and we do a great job. We’re fortunate to have a lot of sports events going on.”

Basketball is just one of several national sports championships held in Little Rock. Boyd says in the last 10 years the Crowne Plaza has had more than 12,000 room nights just for soccer on the weekends. “It’s really big.”

Alan Sims, the Vice President of Sales & Services for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau says sports are responsible for 40% of the room nights generated in the city. Sims says the reasons can be credited to the weather, accessibility, and affordability.

Boyd says Little Rock is centrally located and easy to get to. “The southern hospitality and the rates are so good. We’re affordable not just with hotels but with activities to do.”

The economic impact of sports tournaments in Little Rock is well into the millions of dollars. Sims says it touches the entire economy. “It benefits the entire city and region.”

The next sporting event to come to town is the Southern Amateur Golf Association Tournament being held at Chenal Country Club this week.

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