NCAA swim meet makes $1.5 million splash

Hosting its first NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships in March, representatives of the City of Shenandoah were not sure what to expect from an event of that magnitude. However, early estimates indicate the event brought in $1.5 million in retail and hotel dollars to the city.

"Being the first event and being the national stage, [we] really didn't know what to expect," Shenandoah City Administrator Greg Smith said. "The event turned out a lot better than what I think we all anticipated."

Smith estimated $858,000 was spent by visitors at restaurants and shops based on a conservative average of $150 spent per guest per night on retail within the community. Hotels also earned more than $700,000 as a result of the event, Smith said, with 5,720 hotel nights estimated from the teams and spectators. With 565 hotel rooms in Shenandoah, and a nearby NASA conference being held that week, Smith said, hotels were sold out from Conroe to as far as 20 miles south of the city.

"This was truly an area impact," he said.

Restaurants and retailers believe the event weekend was one of their busiest, Smith said. Some restaurants that normally do not take reservations were booking groups.

The NCAA meet brought 537 athletes, 180 coaches and an estimated 2.5 fans—including friends and family members—per student athlete, totaling about 2,000-plus visitors, Smith said. No participating universities came from Texas.

Although Smith said there were a few local spectators, the event sold out within about an hour of tickets going on sale online.

In addition to the direct economic impact on the city, Smith said there is no dollar figure that can measure the notoriety the city's partnership with the NCAA brought the community.

"It gave us an identity with the sports arena, which is what one of the long-term goals was when the [city] decided to partner with CISD and the Natatorium and Woodforest Stadium," Smith said. "Those two facilities are the two biggest selling points that are within Shenandoah."

Smith said the city had anticipated about $90,000-$100,000 would be spent on the event, although certain unforeseen costs will likely increase the figure to somewhere between $130,000 and $150,000.

"The economic impact definitely outweighs the expenses," Smith said.

Shenandoah and Conroe ISD hope to become a partner city with the NCAA, Smith said, and have been in discussions with the organization for about 14 months. Smith said they could also pursue future events in sports such as soccer, football, cross country and golf.

CISD Natatorium Director Sam Fruia said the possibility of hosting future events at either of the two CISD venues would depend on their availability. Timing for the swimming and diving championships was ideal, because area teams had completed their competitions for the season, Fruia said.

"Running the event this year is an example that the natatorium can step up its game for these type of events," Fruia said.

J.P. Williams, assistant director of Championships and Alliances for the NCAA, said the event was well received by the participants. Williams said the venue performed well and the pool was fast, with nine records broken at the meet. While he could not speak for all of the NCAA, he said he would be pleased if Shenandoah made bids for future events.

"Everything we asked for, Greg Smith and the city staff provided," Williams said. "We're definitely happy with the way the community rallied around its events."

By Matt Stephens
Matt Stephens joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2012. A Tomball native and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Matt joined as a reporter for The Woodlands team before being promoted to help launch the Spring | Klein edition in spring of 2014 and later to North Houston managing editor in late 2015. He has served as managing editor to the Phoenix and Nashville papers since August 2020.


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