SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga's March Madness run may be over, but sports fans are still flocking to Spokane to track a bracket of a different kind.
USA Volleyball's Pacific Northwest Qualifier volleyball tournament is in town, drawing tens of thousands of athletes and fans.
It's also exciting for Spokane's economy, says Ashley Blake, CEO of Spokane Sports.
“This is the largest economic development event we host in the city," she said.
That's thanks to the 14,400 spectators and 12,000 athletes turning out over the course of the two weekends.
“It’s huge," said Patti Kohl, a grandparent visiting from Austin, Texas. "I don’t know how many teams exactly there are but it’s a lot.”
The packed tourney has 800 teams, to be exact, maxing out all competition slots.
Blake says the tournament has been in Spokane for three decades and gets bigger every year, so some of the visitors are no strangers to Spokane.
Stephanie Hutchinson, from Gig Harbor, has been here three times.
“We love the Riverfront Park, the girls spend a lot of time sledding down the wagon, shopping," she said. "They always love the gelato downtown.”
Though even newcomers, spending around four days on average, mean big business for Spokane. Blake says the event brings in around $26 million dollars.
“So that’s new money coming into our market through stays at hotels, restaurants, retail, recreation that’s an infusion of new dollars into our economy," she said.
A big win for our city and, who knows, maybe some of those visitors will become neighbors?
“We love it," Kohl laughed. "Wouldn’t mind even living here.”
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