NAIA championships provide multi-million dollar community impact

PITTSBURG – Since its opening in 2015, the Robert W. Plaster Center on the campus of Pittsburg State University has had a significant impact on the local economy.

According to a release from the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 900 participants from 114 schools came together on March 1 for the 2018 National Association of Intercollege Athletics Indoor Track and Field National Championships.

An event impact summary received this week by the CVB shows the NAIA Championships provided a $2,434,755 economic impact for the region.

“The CVB was excited to host an event of this magnitude,” said Executive Director Devin Gorman in the release. “With two pre-Championship events on Wednesday and the meet itself taking place over three days, we had athletes and fans staying for an extended period of time. The feedback we’ve received from the business community has been tremendous.”

According to the release hotels and restaurants were full, many shelves at local stores were empty, and cash registers were busy. A number of restaurants reported record nights in sales.

“One of our faculty members who is an economist found that from 2016 to 2017, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of hotel nights sold,”  Director of Government and Community Relations Shawn Naccarato said. “Kansas Crossing Casino has contributed a lot to that, but Plaster is definitely a big part of that, too.”

The event summary was developed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and shows an overall economic impact for the event from both direct and indirect sales totaling $2,434,755, or $608,688 per day. With Pittsburg hotels being sold out months prior to the championships, surrounding communities such as Joplin, Fort Scott and Parsons all saw direct benefits for the event as well.

“From the hotel perspective, we were happy to have our property full of students from across the U.S. and enjoyed the energy they brought with them to Pittsburg for nearly a consecutive three weeks,”  Ginger Cawley, sales manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Pittsburg, said in the release. “The revenue generated by such major events as the NAIA and NCAA Division II Championships during the time-frame of the month of March was our highest grossing month to date, which not only stimulated our hotel and others, but also contributed to the entire economic stability and growth of the City of Pittsburg and the surrounding areas.”

Gorman also noted the variety of businesses, groups and individuals that contributed to ensuring athletes and visitors had memorable experiences.

“Hosting the Championships would not have been possible without such incredible community support,” Gorman said. “On behalf of the CVB and the community as a whole, we would like to personally thank the over 125 volunteers who graciously gave of their time. We had a wide assortment of community groups, businesses, schools and others who all provided assistance.”

Looking ahead, Naccarato said he expects the Plaster Center to host plenty of events throughout the year, both track-related and otherwise.

“During the summer, we have other athletic camp events,” Naccarato said. “The idea is to focus on April through October for non-track events, as it’s the perfect time for what could be tremendous economic growth.”

— Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at bschmitz@morningsun.net.