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High Profile Soccer Tournaments in Cary, North Carolina Fill Hotels and Restaurants

Sports Marketers Say Branding and Positioning Key to Success


By Sadia Latifi, The Cary News, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 30, 2009--CARY -- Competitive soccer tournaments held in the Triangle this month helped Cary businesses and boosted the town's profile nationally, county sports marketers say.

Scott Dupree, vice president for sports marketing for the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that the NCAA Men's College Cup -- the Final Four of soccer -- usually brings about $300,000 in direct visitor spending at hotels and restaurants.

Dupree expects this year's numbers to be in that ballpark, but hard data from the tournament, held two weekends ago at WakeMed Soccer Park, won't come out until early next year.

Hosting the tournament, however, is more than just immediate financial returns.

"It's about the branding and positioning of Cary as the leading destination in the U.S. for collegiate soccer," Dupree said. "We had about six hours of live national television showcasing the town and WakeMed Soccer Park, and it looked great."

This is the seventh consecutive year the town has hosted a College Cup. The town plans to host the NCAA Women's College Cup in soccer next year.

The College Cup was held in conjunction with the a Capital Area Soccer League showcase tournament, which hosted 388 teams and almost 7,000 players. The Showcase brought in more than 15,000 visitors to the area, and generated an estimated $2.8 million in revenue for Wake County, Dupree said.

Showcase players and coaches received College Cup tickets, ensuring a sellout at the 7,000-seat WakeMed venue.

Friday's night games saw more than 8,800 fans, Dupree said. Even Sunday's games, which took place in the rain, had about 6,000 visitors, he said.

Hotels across Wake County were sold out for both events. Dupree said the four College Cup teams and officiating organizations blocked off rooms in five area hotels. Tracking numbers aren't out for those hotels yet but Dupree estimated that each team -- UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Virginia and Akron -- brought in several hundred fans each.

The business comes on the heels of the men's and women's ACC soccer tournaments, which were held in Cary last month.

"Cary has done an excellent job of building itself into a soccer city," Davis Whitfield, the ACC's associate commissioner for championships, said last month. "Our coaches simply love going there."

The town will make another bid in February to host College Cups in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

"This really helps to position Cary as a great soccer town and as a great sports town," Dupree said.

The town is one of six places in the country to be designated an NCAA Championship City, with the inside track to host collegiate tournaments in men's and women's sports during a four-year period.

Cary is the smallest town in the year-old pilot program, which cultivates host cities. The others are Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, San Diego and San Antonio. By 2012, Cary venues will have hosted six different NCAA championship tournaments in soccer, baseball, cross country and tennis.

Barry Mitsch, a North Carolina Amateur Sports board member and chair of the Cary Sports Alliance, said there's still more that could be done to inform businesses about upcoming sporting events.

"Believe it or not, there are people who did not know there were 7,000 kids coming to town, and they're wondering why they did not have enough staff at their restaurant or why they weren't otherwise ready for it," he said at a recent economic development commission meeting. "There are ways businesses can use these events to really capitalize, which we're not doing yet."

sadia.latifi@nando.com or 919-460-2612

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To see more of the Cary News or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.carynews.com/.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Cary News, N.C.

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