“We’re excited that this is an international event,” said Visit Stockton CEO Wes Rhea as the event was ready to open late last week. “We also know that because a lot of the folks are coming from across the globe… a lot of California will get some of this action.”
The successful baton twirling national competition held at Stockton Arena in 2014 paved the relationship between Visit Stockton and the niche sport. As a result, the Stockton Arena was chosen as the venue for the Pan Pacific Cup Competition.
“The Stockton Arena is a wonderful venue, it meets the needs of our sport,” said U.S. Twirling Association Director of Communications Anna Osborn Dolan. “(Stockton) also meets the needs of our athletes and family in terms of hotels, restaurants, entertainment.”
Stockton, specifically, checked additional boxes for Dolan and the USTA. Dolan praised Stockton for its easy access to nearby attractions, including Muir Woods and the coast.
While a monetary total of tourism dollars brought to Stockton is still being calculated, Rhea expects the impact will be great. In 2014, the USTA Baton Twirling Nationals generated 1,500 room nights and had a total economic impact of $403,132. In 2015, the total economic impact for hosted sporting events in Stockton was more than $2.9 million.
This competition drew 287 competitors, most of whom brought family members with them. A stipulation in the event’s agreement with the city required all competitors to stay at a sponsoring hotel, either the Hilton Stockton or the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel.
Competitions such as this also have the potential to draw spectators to the area.
When USTA hosted the 2014 National Baton Twirling Championships in Stockton, it was the first time the competition had come to California in more than 14 years. It was also Stockton’s first time hosting the event. Previously, the city hosted the 2012 USTA trials.
“We developed this relationship with USTA, and it has just been kind of fruitful for us,” Rhea said. “They had such a good experience in 2014, we started working with them on the next national championship.” The package agreement includes a return to the Stockton Arena for nationals in 2020.
“Part of what makes Stockton an attractive destination for us is having an organization like Visit Stockton,” Dolan said. “They add a lot of value to our event.”
Stockton Arena’s high ceilings are another draw for baton twirlers. It’s getting harder to accommodate the high throws twirlers master. To be considered as a venue, any space must have ceilings that are at least 13 meters high. Stockton Arena’s ceiling is more than 18 meters high.
To get the attention of the USTA, Rhea reached out when Visit Stockton first heard of the need for a venue for the 2014 national event. Area hotels fund visit Stockton and that relationship made it possible to offer discounts on stays, which made the agreement more appealing to USTA.
“We just have to have a variety of hotels at different price points, a variety of different restaurants that are available to people who do have a rental car, don’t have a rental car,” Dolan said. She also mentioned the value of Stockton’s other transportation options as well as the varied restaurants, a good mix of local flavor and known choices for competitors and their families.
“It’s a very competitive business, this sports world,” Rhea said.
To maintain the revenue brought in for hosting sports in Stockton, Rhea said Visit Stockton goes after niche sports. The big sports — basketball, soccer and baseball — are very competitive.
“These unique events, (baton twirling, disc golf, racquetball), those little niche sports we can go after,” he explained.
While the competition was shorter this time and drew fewer competitors than 2014’s, it offered another attractive component to Stockton — it was international.
The competition, which took place Jan. 13-15, was modeled after a similar event in Europe. Dolan explained that the logistics of that competition are easier than a Pan Pacific version because geographically the countries are closer together.
The plan and process to organize the Pan Pacific took 10 years.
“We’re really excited to host this inaugural event,” Dolan said. “This competition is open to a far broader spectrum of athletes (compared to the 2014 competition). We’re going to see more variety in terms of the ability and the experience of the athletes.”