The first year for the North Platte Area Sports Commission meant about $250,000 of economic impact for Lincoln County in 2017, according to North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau statistics.
The commission hosted more than 20 events through 2017 ranging from district basketball tournaments to state high school golf.
“I think it shows that we can grow even more,” said Courtney Fegter, marketing and special events coordinator. “Most of these events had never considered that they could be hosted here. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
One of the biggest events of the year was the State Class D girls golf hosted by Lake Maloney Golf Course.
“For state golf, we have to go bid that each year,” Fegter said. “But this year we were awarded three years for that, so we will have that through 2019.”
Fegter pointed out the value offered by hosting the various events in North Platte.
“The draw is because we are centrally located and it’s affordable,” Fegter said. “We look at it as it’s great for us, but also people coming in get the small town feel. They get that support from the media when they come here that they don’t get in a larger area.”
She said people like the coverage local media offers.
“They’re kind of treated like royalty when they’re here, and that’s how we like to treat them,” Fegter said.
One event that has the potential to grow is the Chris Jarvis Marathon, which was the first full marathon hosted by North Platte. There were 42 runners who tackled the 26.2 mile course in 2017. The race is run in connection with the Autumn River Run, which started 10 years ago. Over the years, the event has grown and it now honors the memory a local man, who loved to run.
Jarvis, a fire fighter and local running pioneer, had asked if a half marathon could be added to the series.
The first half-marathon was run in 2010 and in 2011 it became a memorial run for Jarvis. The event now includes a 5K, half-marathon and full marathon.
Natasha Burch, Jarvis’s daughter, and the event’s co-director, said there were runners from Pennsylvania, California, Ohio and Wisconsin.
“The marathon is a Boston Marathon qualifer now,” Fegter said. “We provided the chip timing for that event so it could be considered as a qualifier.”
Fegter said with one new hotel nearing completion and talk of at least two more scheduled to begin construction, that will open the door for more and larger events.
“I think with more hotels coming in, that’s going to give us the availability to host more, especially during the summertime when we are so booked during Nebraskaland Days,” Fegter said. “We were looking to host a baseball tournament during that time, but we couldn’t because there’s not enough rooms.”
She also said having more rooms would make the cost of lodging more competitive with the Kearney area and increase the opportunities to schedule even more events.
“And making these events bigger and better is what we are working on,” Fegter said.
Another event that has potential for growth is the commission’s Tanking Race. Fegter said the 2018 event is scheduled for March 31.
“People really liked it,” Fegter said. “Every single person I spoke with after the race came up and said something nice about it and asked when they could sign up for next year.”
Fegter said the commission is working with other sports to expand their horizons as well.
“Softball tournaments, we’re working with them to bring in more teams from further away, better competition and hopefully getting some scouting for the players that come here,” Fegter said. “We’re just working at different angles on how to grow the tournaments here.”
The commission is making contact with the University of Nebraska at Kearney and UNL to bring out their softball coaches to scout the girls that play in some of the bigger summer tournaments.
“We contact teams from Colorado and the Rapid City area to compete against other high level teams,” Fegter said. “It just draws in more people, it draws in more coaches and competition-wise, it’s all coming together a lot better than I expected it could. People are interested in that, the competitive aspect of it.”
Wrestling is a popular sport and the D&N Event Center is the site of the River Valley Ruckus wrestling tournament, Jan. 27-28.
“We have the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the nation coming to that,” Fegter said. “We have teams from Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, and I believe we also have a team from Ohio. It’s just about getting the word out to these coaches. If we go to their events, they’ll come to ours.”
The goal is to host basketball and volleyball tournaments here as well, Fegter said.
“We want to be able to host them here,” Fegter said. “Not only to bring in the revenue here, but also to bring in that high caliber competition for our locals so they can compete at the higher level perhaps be recruited to colleges and get those scholarships.”
Some of the biggest things the Commission is looking to expand on are the off-season tournaments.
“We have softball and baseball tournaments in the summer, but most of the time our hotel rooms are booked with travelers just coming through,” Fegter said. “So, we’re looking to break into the wrestling and the basketball and the off season volleyball tournaments for clubs.”
A new event that is sweeping the country is one Fegter said the Commission is pursuing as well.
“We actually bid for a national cornhole tournament that is coming in 2019,” Fegter said. “We’ll be hosting some local tournaments leading up to that to kind of tease everyone with what it’s going to be like and get some practice in for cornhole.”
Having community support is an important aspect to grow and Fegter said there are opportunities that can be found at playnorthplatte.com where the schedule of events can be found.
“If anyone is interested in hosting a tournament, they can contact me,” Fegter said.