ST. GEORGE — In a grand opening of sorts, the spring sports season ignites in Washington County Presidents Day weekend. Following a consistent migration pattern, youth teams from the north get an early start on their seasons by participating in three massive tournaments over the holiday weekend. These events will use nearly every patch of grass in the St. George area.
“The popularity of youth sports is playing a big part in the economic prosperity of the region,” Kevin Lewis, director of the St. George Area Sports Commission said. “Good weather, great fields, fun communities and a long weekend provide ample incentives for the families who flock here each year.”
Attracting some of the largest crowds this holiday weekend is the Rage Invitational soccer tournament, which includes 266 teams and an estimated 4,000 players, coaches and officials.
“Our tournament brings an estimated 11,000 people into the St. George and Washington City area for a fun recreational weekend of soccer,” tournament director Paul Miravete said. “The Rage Invitational prides itself in delivering the best fields available and draws the best referees.”
The Ice Breaker Soccer Tournament will also bring a significant quantity of visitors to the area, with 246 teams and nearly 4,000 participants.
In addition to the soccer tournaments, a plethora of out-of-town visitors also come to St. George to participate in the Rocky Mountain School of Baseball’s sizable Presidents Day Tournament. The event includes 125 competition teams, adding up to approximately 2,000 players, coaches and umpires.
“We know when Presidents Day is here that means that baseball season is around the corner,” Rhett Udy of the Rocky Mountain School of Baseball said. “It’s fun to watch all the players get the dust off their cleats and bats and get going on another season of baseball. This is the largest high-school-aged tournament in the state of Utah with 50 high school teams.”
Lewis said the economic impact of the youth athletic tournaments is significant, given the fact that each player is accompanied by family members who stay at area hotels, dine at restaurants and spend money shopping or on other outdoor recreational activities. Historically, an average of more than three-quarters of the participants for these tournaments are from outside the area.
The sports commission estimates the economic impact of those three tournaments to be approximately $15 million.
“We’re looking at between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors heading to the St. George area for youth sports tournaments during Presidents Day Weekend,” Lewis said. “It is truly astounding and a testament to what an attractive sports destination we have become.”