January 30, 2018 2:45PM
And for good reason. Pittsburg State University’s Robert W. Plaster Center, which opened in 2015, already has been the site of conference and national championships from the MIAA, NJCAA and NCAA.
This weekend, the Plaster Center will host the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships, the third of eight straight weekends in which Pittsburg State will hosted large track and field competitions, including the NCAA Division II men’s and women’s national championships March 9-10.
“Over these weekends we’ll have as many as 6,000 total athletes competing on the Harvey Dean Track,” said Russ Jewett, PSU’s men’s and women’s track and field head coach. “That’s great for Pitt State and for our sport, but it’s also great for the local economy.”
The effect on the local economy is apparent to anyone who visits a local restaurant or attempts to book a hotel room on a championship weekend. In fact, according to the latest Pittsburg Micropolitan Economic Report the region saw a 25.3 percent increase in total room revenue for the first 10 months of 2017. The addition of the Plaster Center was a key contributor to that increase.
“The impact is significant,” said Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “And it comes at a time of year when we need it the most.”
Prior to the Plaster Center’s opening in 2015, the first quarter was easily the softest time of year for Pittsburg hotels.
“These events provide a much-needed boost to our hotel traffic while fueling restaurants and other entities that serve these visitors,” Benson said.
Unlike a basketball or football game, track and field competitions last most of the day, which can lead to extra free time for spectators.
“It makes track and field unique from a hosting standpoint,” said Jim Johnson, director of intercollegiate athletics at Pittsburg State. “Fans may literally be in town all day, but only spend two to three hours in the Plaster Center watching a specific event. When they’re not on campus, they’re looking for things to do in our community. You’ll certainly see an increased amount of traffic around town on event days.”
While hosting events brings an economic boost to the city, it can also place a bit of a strain on Jewett’s staff. Fortunately, he finds himself getting a lot of help from his fellow coaches and community volunteers.
“It really takes a small army to pull these things off,” he said. “But it’s a great experience for our student athletes and our community. I’m always impressed by the number of volunteers and alumni who join together with our university staff to make certain these student athletes enjoy a championship experience. These are weekends they’ll never forget.”
The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships will take place Feb. 2-3. The Third Annual Indoor Gorilla Classic will take place Feb. 9-10. Tickets for both competitions will be available the day of the event.