ST. GEORGE — Healthy competition has been good for the economy in Washington County. In 2017, 42 major athletic events brought more than 62,000 participants and over 116,000 out-of-town visitors to the area. The result was a whopping $78 million in direct economic impact, according to a news release from the St. George Area Sports Commission, thousands in tax relief for residents and hundreds of thousands more in media exposure for the area.
A record number of athletes and visitors came to participate in a diverse and growing assortment of sporting events last year. Whether it was to slice through the waters of Sand Hollow Reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park in the beginning of the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship St. George, carve trails and preform stunts at the Red Bull Rampage, pound the pavement in the St. George Marathon or toss horseshoes alongside the greatest horseshoe pitcher of all time, sports enthusiasts came here by the thousands.
“What is clear is that the St. George area has asserted itself as a destination for sports and outdoor recreation,” Kevin Lewis, director of the St. George Area Sports Commission said. “The communities in Washington County are energized by nature, inspired by physical achievement and rewarded through the opportunities these events provide. Our seemingly unlimited supply of sunshine with our region’s unsurpassed beauty has always made our area attractive to out-of-town visitors. Now with the many and varied events we host, more people are being exposed to what makes this region so irresistible.”
The county’s investment in sporting events pays great dividends. In addition to millions in direct economic impact, the tax revenue generated by the events helps substantially reduce the tax burden of residents. According to data from the Utah Tax Commission, Washington County receives $6.1 million in tax revenue annually from visitor room rentals – that’s more than all but two counties in the state. Tourism-generated tax revenue provides more than $1,200 in tax relief per household each year.
“Our individual taxes are significantly lower because of the tax revenue collected from visitors,” Lewis said.
In addition, Lewis said the media exposure generated by sporting events amounts to nearly $700,000 in public relations value for the county.
In 2017, sports included soccer tournaments for children as young as 4 to horseshoe pitching events with athletes older than 90. Events ranged from traditional sports such as baseball and running to more adventure-type pursuits such as mountain biking and off-roading.
For guests making their first trip to the county, post-event surveys indicate 78 percent plan to return, according to the Sports Commission news release. Sixty-eight percent of visitors stayed in local hotels and rental properties for an average of 3.2 nights. Visitors came from every state in the union and from an estimated 35 foreign countries.
Among the highlights from 2017 are the following:
- Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain shattered the course record at the May 6 Ironman 70.3 race with a time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, 58 seconds.
- The credentials of Ironman 70.3 pro competitors included six world titles and more than 70 race victories at Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events.
- Alan Francis from Ohio was undefeated in the finals to claim his 22nd National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Horseshoe Championship in July 2017. Approximately 95 percent of the more than 1,000 participants were from outside the St. George area.
- More than 9,700 medals were awarded at the Huntsman World Senior Games, which featured 10,675 participants.
“Sporting events provide an energy that helps bring our communities together,” Lewis said. “In addition to invigorating competition, participants and spectators are uniquely rewarded by the physical surroundings of the area. Something almost indescribable happens when the competition plays out in our natural surroundings. The emotion of the event and the inspiration of the setting create an experience that participants want to have again and again.”
There is more excitement in the works for 2018, Lewis added.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Nitro Circus 10-year Anniversary Tour at Legend Solar Stadium on May 12 and the Tour of Utah Professional Cycling Race on August 6,” he said.
A full list of the area’s 2018 sporting events can be found on the St. George Area Sports Commission website.