EUGENE, Ore. - The Olympic Trials of 2008 in Eugene brought $28 million in local spending to the economy, so can that amount be multiplied?
A local sports tourism group in Lane County wants to give that idea a running start.
"It's exciting; I mean it's long overdue," says Director Paul Swangard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.
Is sports the new driver of local tourism? The new Eugene, Cascades and Coast Sports Commission aims to find out. It wants to recruit new sports events for Lane County and score new jobs.
Officials announced the new commission Monday at Matthew Knight Arena, as a statewide sports manager pledged his support.
"Take the events that you already have and try to do such a great job that those events come back," explained Drew Mahalic of the Oregon Sports Authority.
KVAL News asked CEO Kari Westlund of Travel Lane County how many jobs could be created. "Well that's a question that we really want to understand a little bit better," Westlund said.
While jobs numbers are not ready, what they do know is Lane County sports events in the next 2 years are expected to ring cash registers to the tune of $47 million.
"And by making these sports, real events, I think that's where we're really going to see the biggest untapped potential, and Eugene '08 (the Olympic Trials) was a great example of that," said Swangard.
Commission leaders think they can do the same with BMX racing, ice skating, even more water sports at Dexter Lake.
New Sports Commission Director Janis Ross told KVAL News, "We've certainly experienced it firsthand that sports events tend to be more resistant to economic downturns than other types of tourism."
Especially in youth sports, as families follow the kids and spend money for motels and restaurants.
Ross said they want to work quickly and get the new marketing plan in the starting blocks, they hope, within the next six months.
The U.S. Olympic trials will be held again this summer in Eugene, starting June 22.
Tourism leaders expect the event will pump $31 million into the Lane County economy.