HEISER: Sporting events become big business for York

Steve Heiser
  • The Sport York program annually lures about 18 event to the area per year.
  • Over the last three fiscal years, those events have had a total economic impact of $61.2 million.
  • The most lucrative event in York is the Keystone Games at $6.9 million per year.

Sporting events have become a big business in York County — and right now, business is very good.

In fact, it's booming.

York YMCA's Cheyanna Buckingham (18) and Neli LaCourt Ruiz (9), both go up to attempt a block during their match against MVA at the Mid-Atlantic Power League Volleyball Tournament, on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Utz Arena. The volleyball tournament is one of about 18 events per year that are lured to York by the Sport York program. Amanda J. Cain photo

The group most responsible for that growth is an organization that likely operates under the radar of most folks in the county.

It's known as Sport York.

Just because that group is relatively anonymous, however, doesn't mean it's not seriously valuable.

Crunching the numbers tells us that much.

Sport York, which is an arm of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, has lured about 18 sporting events per year to the area for the past three fiscal years.

The total economic impact of those events?

Try $61.2 million.

That's mighty good news for the greater York economy.

Even better, the economic impact has been growing significantly year over year, jumping from $13.6 million in 2014-15 to $21 million in 2015-16 to $26.6 million in 2016-17. That's a near 100 percent increase in just two years.

Those numbers are compiled by the YCCVB through a complicated formula that measures a number of variables.

Of course, some will suspect that the group is cooking the books to make itself look good, and that's a valid concern.

Still, the YCCVB and Sport York are funded primarily by York County hotel room tax revenue, as well as membership fees and proceeds from its housing bureau. As a group receiving tax support, it's obligated to be transparent in its budgeting and reporting.

Still, even if the numbers are inflated slightly, there can be little doubt that Sport York is working. All you have to do is travel around York when one of the events is taking place and you can witness it for yourself. Restaurants, hotels and stores are filled with folks wearing coats and jerseys from teams throughout the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

York's advantages: They come here for several different reasons, including:

►York's strategic location less than 200 miles from several major metropolitan areas, including Baltimore-Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the New York City metroplex. It's also close to a major interstate (Route 83), allowing for easy access.

►It's versatile and affordable venues that are perfect homes for major events that need first-class, spacious facilities. Among them are the Utz Arena at the York Expo Center, the York YMCA Graham Aquatic Center and Memorial Park, not to mention the high school venues that can be used during the summer months, especially for the Keystone State Games.

►A well-deserved reputation for delivering good value, while also boasting staff and volunteers who are professional, courteous and informed. Strong customer service in these parts helps to bring back events year after year.

It's a combination that's tough to beat.

The major events: That's why York has attracted the following lucrative competitions for 2016-17, listed with their estimated economic impacts, according to the YCCVB:

►Keystone State Games ($6.9 million).

Martin Luther King Jr. Kickoff Classic Volleyball Tournament ($4.6 million).

Mid-Atlantic Power League Volleyball Tournament ($2.3 million).

Middle Atlantic Swimming Junior Olympics ($1.9).

ASA Eastern Nationals Class B Softball ($1.5 million).

Anne Druck, the president of the YCCVB, is justifiably proud of what her organization has accomplished in recent years.

“The (YCCVB) has been a trailblazer when tapping into the sports market,” she said in an email. “While convention and visitors bureaus have long been attracting sporting events, the (YCCVB) was the first in Pennsylvania to launch a sports-specific brand (Sport York).”

Right how, there's little debate that it's a brand that delivers serious bang for the buck for the York County economy.

Even it does operate a little under the radar.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.