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Sports Tourism Plays Strong Role in Lifting Hotel Occupancy Rates
During Economic Downturn for Rochester, New York Hoteliers

By Elliot Mann, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 29, 2009--Amateur tournaments like next week's The Clash Wrestling Duals have helped Rochester's hotels escape from the sleeper hold of the economic downturn that's hurt hotels nationwide, say city tourism officials.

Experts agree that Mayo Clinic-related stays provide the largest chunk of business, but the athletic tournaments help increase traffic during otherwise quieter periods, Rochester Amateur Sports Commission Executive Director Ed Hruska said.

Rochester's lodging business has been down more than 3 percent this year compared to last year, according to estimates from the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau. The entire industry has been down about 14 percent nationally compared to last year, the bureau said.

Sports tourism in 2009 accounted for roughly 24,000 hotel stays, or about 33 percent of the Rochester CVB's bookings. Hotel stays linked to sports tourism have remained steady from 2008, according to figures from the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission.

"Sports tourism plays a great role in building occupancy, especially on nights when we're slower," Rochester Lodging and Hospitality Association member Ian Freeburg said.

The sports commission is responsible for bringing several tourneys to town, including USA Wrestling events, the AAU Girls Basketball Under 12 National Championship and men's national softball tournaments.

The group also brought The Clash Wrestling Duals to town, but another group now handles the ongoing operations.

Two tournaments currently in play -- the Kiwanis/Wells Fargo Hockey Festival and Rotary/U.S. Bank Holiday Basketball Classic -- aren't organized by the amateur sports commission, but those tournaments also help promote Rochester as a destination for similar events, Hruska said.

"Over the years, we talk to people in the sports world, (who say) 'I was in Rochester for the Rotary tournament or I was there for the Kiwanis tournament,'" Hruska said. "It brings people to town and gets people familiar with the community."

2010 could be the biggest year ever for the sports commission. Read about it in Tuesday's print edition.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.

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