While seemingly everyone has been focused on bringing a giant automaker or a Boeing plant to the Greensboro area, one segment of the economic development effort has been consistently knocking it out of the park without getting the attention it deserves – sports tourism.
On Saturday, March 2, Greensboro hosted the USA Gymnastics American Cup competition – a major World Cup Gymnastics event that featured future Olympiads. And at the same time the 2019 ACC men’s swimming championships were wrapping up at the Coliseum complex at the Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC).
Some area citizens might not even have realized those events were in town last weekend, but competitions like those bring in a lot of people and a lot of dollars – and they help put Greensboro and Guilford County on the national radar.
Henri Fourier, the president and CEO of the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted that the American Cup was nationally televised, and events like that bring a lot of attention to Greensboro.
The ACC swimming championship is just one of a steady stream of ACC events – swimming competitions and golf, baseball and basketball tournaments – as well as NCAA events and a host of other athletic competitions.
In July, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is holding its Junior Olympics in Greensboro, which will feature boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 19 competing in over 20 sports such as field hockey, track and field, and other events seen in summer Olympic competitions.
“That’s the largest event we’ve ever brought to Greensboro,” Fourier said.
Richard Beard, a Greensboro developer who serves on the Greensboro Sports Foundation, said sports tourism in this city is absolutely killing it, but he added that those successes aren’t always as appreciated as they should be.
“Greensboro doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” he said.
Beard also said that, after the financial collapse a decade ago, this was the one economic driver that kept going strong.
“The one thing that never stopped was our sports tourism,” Beard said.
According to Beard, the Greensboro Coliseum has played an invaluable role. He said the coliseum has had its critics over the years but he added that it’s central to this effort and a real local treasure.
“That damn coliseum is a great economic driver,” Beard said.
Like Fourier, Beard said the television coverage of the competitions does a lot for Greensboro’s notoriety. He said five American swimming records have been set at the pool and some events held there have been televised nationally.
Beard said the GAC at the coliseum is one of the premier swimming venues anywhere and he added that the community is very lucky to have it.
“The events we’re getting at that pool are incredible,” he said.
Next January, USA Figure Skating’s national championship – the country’s most prestigious figure skating event – will be held in Greensboro.
Beard said what’s unbelievable is that Greensboro has been able to land that event so consistently. The city hosted those championships in 2011 and 2015, and Beard said it says a lot that USA Figure Skating keeps returning.
“That’s an incredible accomplishment,” he said.
According to Beard, some of the factors that play a role in Greensboro’s sports tourism successes are the volunteer base, the area’s sports facilities, the way the community comes together to back the competitions and the work of organizations such as the Greensboro Sports Foundation.