More than 2,000 youth soccer players will pour into town this weekend, filling all of Durango’s soccer parks and hotels and pumping as much as $600,000 into the local economy.
The annual Durango Soccer Shootout, which begins today, features 144 teams this year, an increase of about 10 teams from last year’s attendance, 121 of them from out of town.
“With 15 kids per team, we’re shooting over 2,000 players alone, not to mention parents and brothers and sisters and whoever else is tagging along,” said David Oberholtzer, the tournament organizer, former Fort Lewis College men’s soccer player and current assistant coach.
Aside from the 23 Durango Youth Soccer Association teams participating, DYSA director Kate Stahlin said Durango can expect to see about 2,500 people from around the Four Corners. The streets should “start to buzz a little bit” by Thursday evening, Stahlin said. Durango Area Tourism Director John Cohen said lodging in town already was approaching 100 percent capacity by Thursday afternoon.
“There’s quite a few hotels that are booked solid,” Cohen said. “It’s such a great event. Particularly in May, which is still the shoulder season, to have an event like this that is really pretty much 100 percent occupancy is fantastic.”
Peggy Fulda, a desk clerk at the Durango Lodge, said her hotel has been fully booked for the weekend for almost a month, many rooms taken by guests returning from past tournaments.
“There have been times in past years where there has not been a room to be found,” Cohen said.
In those years, some teams have had to seek lodging outside the county in Cortez or Pagosa Springs or even have taken up weekend residence at local campgrounds, but Cohen said those are last-resort options. Visitors looking for lodging should contact his office, he said, even if the town seems full.
“We’re pretty confident we can always find someone that last room,” Cohen said.
With teams not only booking hotels but also frequenting Durango restaurants, stores and even booking rafting trips, DYSA club administrator Barb Bell said the economic impact is substantial.
From this afternoon to Sunday evening, 17 of Durango’s fields and parks – including FLC, Durango High School, Riverview Sports Complex, Escalante Middle School and Santa Rita Park – will be packed with soccer players. Stahlin said many of the families who come for the tournament also choose to use the trip as a vacation after the soccer whistles stop.
Based on some economic-impact studies she’s seen over the years, Bell said the Shootout probably generates about $600,000 of economic stimulus for the community.
Although getting exact numbers takes some drilling, Cohen said, “My instinct is that she could be right; those studies could be right.”
“The economic impact is extraordinary,” he said. “DYSA has done a great job with this tournament, and it really has a huge economic impact. It brings a lot of dollars into the community.”
As its largest annual fundraiser, the Shootout also provides an economic stimulus for DYSA itself.
Stahlin said the tournament nets her club about $30,000 each year after all of the tournament costs are paid. That profit amounts to at least a third of the nonprofit’s budget, Bell said.
“It’s our main fundraiser,” Bell said. “That’s what we try to do is try to keep our annual player fees at a reasonable level.”
DYSA player fees run from $280 to $305.
Stahlin said the Shootout enables DYSA to provide a great product and keep its players’ fees as low as possible.
Each team that enters the tournament has to pay an entry fee of $425 to $495.
That money – plus some minor revenue from vendors – goes to the DYSA operating budget, which helps pay for coaches, renting fields, maintaining fields and more.
But even with the financial incentives, Stahlin said she’s most excited simply to finish the setup and enjoy the show.
“Friday around 4 p.m., when my stuff is wrapped up, it’s really a nice feeling when you’re up at Fort Lewis and the place is just buzzing and the kids are having fun,” Stahlin said. “It’s just a healthy environment.”
“With the outdoors and great weather with soccer, it’s going to be a tough situation to beat,” Oberholtzer said.