Part 3: The Economic Development Commission’s focus on sports tourism

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By Frank Yamamoto, Chair
Edmonds Economic Development Commission

The following is the third in a series of articles that will appear on MyEdmondsNews.com, summarizing the work of the Edmonds Economic Development Commission, made up of 17 citizens committed to improving the city’s economy.

This week’s column is devoted to our work on developing a plan for how Edmonds can diversify and increase city revenues through sports tourism. We have focused on sports tourism because the City, Chamber and merchants are already involved in attracting tourists through various events to our the city, while sports tourism has untapped potential.

“What is sports tourism?” Essentially it is people traveling away from home to watch or participate in a sport or sporting event. The world’s biggest example is the Olympics, something we are all familiar with. Much smaller attractions exist everywhere that include youth and adult soccer, baseball, softball, tennis and lacrosse tournaments. There are triathlons, organized group bike rides like the STP, local marathons and the 3 day Breast Cancer walk. These activities regularly attract participants, supporters and spectators. These events draw from outside the local area and are multiple day events, which in turn creates a need for places to stay, eat and occupy their time before, during and after these events, hence ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

There are many more examples that we could list, but these are events that are happening now and we have the opportunity to be a part of this constantly growing area now. It is something that we don’t have to wait on or create; it is already there, just happening in other communities. We have a fabulous waterfront, a unique downtown area full of wonderful shops and a great transportation infrastructure, with Amtrak, Sounder trains and a ferry system at our door step.  The attractiveness of city is second to none.

Although sports tourism dates back to the early Greeks, sport and tourism professionals alike are realizing the significant potential of sports tourism and are aggressively pursuing this market niche.  Can Edmonds get on this healthy and lucrative bandwagon and compete for these events? We in the EDC subcommittee on tourism think Edmonds can.

The major issue is, do we have suitable fields and facilities to accommodate these needs and places for everyone to stay? It is the “Field of Dreams” scenario, once we build it, they will come. Having places — hotels/motels and bed and breakfasts — to stay in will not only benefit this area, but think of the possibilities of other activities that require housing, such as meetings, conferences and conventions.

The Commission’s subcommittee is starting in two key areas. One, is developing an inventory of the sports resources in the city, including fields, parks, courts, water park, marina — everything that might possibly be a part of a sporting attraction or event and two,  and exploring the potential for public and private partnerships. Yes, there already is an inventory that the City’s Parks and Recreation has put together for its plans. But these describe what exists, while we are going further and studying what changes need to be made so that the facility can accommodate these events. We will also need to estimate the costs of adapting existing resources and explore where the funds might come from. This work needs to go hand-in-hand with seeking out possible partners who will help improve the physical resources in our city, as well as conduct the sporting event.

Partnerships are crucial. If you look at the promotional material distributed at any of the events mentioned earlier, you will see the names of dozens of organizations that have contributed to the event in some way. Some provide money, while others provide a service.

We are looking for partners in both the public and private sectors. We have spoken with a few that have told us they have access to some funds to renovate facilities that need to be modified or upgraded, but no one entity has all the funding necessary. We need to identify groups of partners. Grants are another avenue we will pursue for upgrading of our sports fields.

While the subcommittee has begun its work, we have been hampered by our small size. We recently expanded the subcommittee’s membership and work has picked up speed. Nevertheless, we are moving forward and hope to have some data available in the near future so that we can make some concrete recommendations.  But we will get there and are very excited about the opportunities and possibilities that exist. Any and all ideas that you, the citizens, have are more than welcome as this will benefit us all.

The full commission meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 PM in the City Hall Brackett Room. The public is invited. If you want to attend a subcommittee meeting, offer suggestions contact me (frank@runninginmotion.com) or Stephen Clifton at the City.

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