Thrilling state high school tournaments at FHSU give a boost to the local business community

Cars, vans, buses, pickup trucks and an occasional RV sprawled last weekend from the vast parking lot at Gross Memorial Coliseum onto the adjoining grass fields. Inside, 224 grapplers from 70 Kansas high schools were competing in the Class 3-2-1A KSHSAA State Wrestling Tournament.

Official attendance at the two-day event on the campus of Fort Hays State University totaled 4,958, which included 2,612 adults and 2,346 students.

The event, which represents the very best of what student-athlete competition should be, also gives the university an opportunity to showcase its top-rate facilities to many first-time visitors. And it does something else. When Fort Hays State brings visitors to campus for major events such as the state wrestling tournament, it creates an economic windfall for the local community.

The visitors eat meals, rent hotel rooms, shop and take advantage of the many recreational opportunities available in Hays and Ellis County.

While it is not possible to calculate the exact economic impact, the official numbers for participants and fans provide reliable estimates by applying formulas developed by tourism experts. A recent Wichita State University study indicated that day-only visitors attending Hays events spend approximately $55.00 per person per day. For 224 wrestlers and 4,958 fans, that calculates to $285,010. But this was a two-day tournament, which means many if not most of those 5,182 people rented rooms. The average room rate for hotels north of I-70 in Hays is $98.66. A conservative estimate would be that 3,000 people rented rooms. Figuring three people to a room, that would be nearly $99,000.

So, in addition to enjoying the thrilling experience of a state tournament, our visitors pumped more than $380,000 into the local economy.

"The partnership Fort Hays State has with the community of Hays expands beyond the traditional classroom learning opportunity," said Tammy Wellbrock, executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce. "It is a major economic driver greatly impacting our local business community, especially when the university hosts large events such as state wrestling."

She noted that the wrestling tournament -- and others like it -- brings in a large number of visitors who need the basics, like food and lodging, but also many spend their free time shopping at the various offerings available in Hays.

"For some of these guests, attending an event held on campus may also be the first time they have visited our community, prompting return visits and experiences," Wellbrock said. "We are so proud to be able to showcase our remarkable community during events like state wrestling and appreciate the great hospitality Fort Hays State and local businesses provide to our out-of-town guests."

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