Sports tourism can be home run for region

It surprises many that one of Discover Lehigh Valley’s primary markets is sports. Youth, college and adult sporting events are targets for Discover Lehigh Valley Sports.

Parents who have children on travel teams know this space well. Our local colleges and universities have hosted large multi-college competitions. This past spring PPL Center hosted an early round of the Frozen Four competition for collegiate ice hockey. Lehigh University will, once again, host a regional NCAA cross country competition. These events bring prestige, people and, most importantly, money to Lehigh Valley.

The real money, as most parents know, comes from larger tournaments attracting youth teams from within a several-hour radius.

Let me give a couple of examples. Lehigh Valley United hosted two separate soccer tournaments this year, both at Lehigh County Sports Fields. The total number of teams participating was 280. Of those, about 180 teams were from outside Lehigh Valley and likely stayed overnight one or two nights. These tournaments involved approximately 4,200 players, more than 600 coaches and more than 6,000 family members. The total economic impact of this event alone was conservatively more than $1 million.

Laxfest was held on the Goodman Campus of Lehigh University this past June over two weekends. It hosted 225 teams comprised of more than 5,000 players and coaches. Of those, approximately 70 percent were from out of the area. An additional, 5,000 or 6,000 parents and visitors along with the players and coaches conservatively generated more than $1.2 million for the region.

Last, a recent ultimate Frisbee event held at the Lehigh County Sports Fields brought in 65 teams with 25 players and coaches per team, or 1,625 participants from outside the area, plus an additional 2,800 visitors who attended as well. This event generated another $500,000 in economic benefit to the valley.

Lehigh Valley has hosted other lacrosse tournaments, along with bowling, cycling, softball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, track and field, cross country, and others. These events, which bring hundreds or thousands of athletes and families to Lehigh Valley support hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, health networks and more.



Why is this important? These dollars are imported to Lehigh Valley. The fact that the events are here bring those dollars here. This is a very competitive marketplace and Discover Lehigh Valley Sports works diligently to keep the events coming back year-after-year, maintaining that economic benefit.

It’s also important because athletes, coaches, parents and families learn more about our region, what there is to do and may return to enjoy other assets we have to offer. These sports events provide a preview trip for future family visits.

Some of these youth sports also provide young athletes exposure to college campuses on which some of these events are held. It can play a significant role in college recruiting.

Over the past 17 years or so that sports marketing has been a focus at Discover Lehigh Valley, and combined with our participation is the statewide Sports Marketing Partnership, PA Sports, the Lehigh Valley has benefited from millions of dollars in increased visitor spending. Currently, our growth is limited only by the availability of indoor and outdoor sports facilities.

We are fortunate to have excellent partners such as Lehigh University, Lehigh County Sports Fields, several local school districts and others who help us with facilities to host these events. Discover Lehigh Valley Sports under the leadership of Michael Kuzy, director of sports tourism, continues to grow and prosper.

None of this even addresses the impact of collegiate sports on the region. The number of colleges and their individual sports events along with the parents and families who visit to watch their athletes perform adds significantly to this total. Our professional sports teams only add more to the mix. Sports business means big business.

Michael Stershic is president of Discover Lehigh Valley, which promotes tourism in Lehigh and Northampton Counties. He can be reached at or 610-882-9200. This is the fourth column in a five-part series.

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