Spokane is promoted as “Near Nature, Near Perfect” but with the Gonzaga Men's basketball team at No. 1 and a handful of other major sporting events there's a big argument to be made to call Spokane “Sports Town USA”.
Friday, the Volleyball Pacific Northwest Qualifier got underway in Cheney, Spokane Valley and in Downtown Spokane at the Convention Center. This event brings 490 teams to the city, booking 10,000 hotel rooms over the two-weekend span.
Playing volleyball from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. can work up a healthy appetite. Luckily, just outside the Convention Center there's a healthy choice of restaurants. The Onion General Manager Jacky Roberg says business spikes 50-percent when the volleyball tournament comes to town.
“We started booking groups in October and I've been booked up for this weekend and next weekend for about three weeks,” Roberg said.
The Onion is so busy, Roberg spreads the wealth amongst her fellow restaurant owners by suggesting other eateries to hungry athletes.
“It's exciting and it's so fun, I think they're happy to be here and we're happy to have them,” Roberg said.
The Pacific Northwest Qualifier brings in about $5 million alone. Last year, according to Visit Spokane, overall tourism in Spokane raked in about $870 million.
“It creates jobs, it helps our quality of life and our economy so there's not a down side to this,” Visit Spokane President Cheryl Kilday said.
Many of those tourism dollars are brought in through major sporting events that Spokane seems to attract. Aside from the Pacific Northwest Qualifier, Spokane will welcome the Women's NCAA Sweet 16, Bloomsday, Hoopfest and the Women's National Boxing Championship.
“We do see a future where tourism is bright and we'll be having more amenities and services for visitors as those events continue to grow,” Kilday said.
The Spokane Sports Commission has a plan brewing for a new sports facility and they'd like to see Spokane host a world championship. At the pace this city is going that doesn't seem so far off.
“We have the largest timed road race in the world [Bloomsday], we have the largest street basketball tournament in the world called Hoopfest, when you start adding that all up there's no reason why we can't call ourselves a great sports town,” President of Spokane Sports Commission Erik Sawyer said.