ROCK HILL — It will be about two more weeks before the final tallies of the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships are in the number of people who came to Rock Hill and Manchester Meadows, and how much money they spent locally.
The estimated, economic impact for the tournament was $3 million. The estimate was made before one-third of the 60-team field was shifted to Rock Hill and York County hotels at the last minute. Tourism officials expect the final economic impact number to be higher.
Even if the number stays at $3 million, it would represent almost 40 percent of the Manchester Meadows entire economic impact in 2011. The city estimates the annual economic impact from Manchester Meadows events at about $8.2 million and $6.5 million for events at Cherry Park.
The reviews from the parents and players who came to Manchester Meadows show organizers met their primary goal: a near flawless tournament.
The only problems were limited to things we saw, not what the players saw, said Dan Vastag of the local organizing committee.
This tournament, said John Taylor, operations supervisor for the citys Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, put us on the map. It said Rock Hill can do just about anything.
For businessmen such as Henry Crocker, owner of Quiznos on Dave Lyle Boulevard, the tournament was an economic disaster. Crocker was one of a number of restaurant owners who prepared for more customers, but didnt get them.
These businessmen raise several questions that should be answered during the post-tournament review process.
• What kind of tournament should the city seek for Manchester Meadows? Crocker and others say local, recurring tournaments have a greater impact because people know the area.
Taylor said the citys philosophy is to solicit a mix of local, state and national tournaments. Vastag said the success should allow the local Discoveries Soccer Club to attract more out-of-state clubs to its tournaments.
• How much traffic do tournaments at Cherry Park or Manchester Meadows really generate? Some businesses said predictions of gridlock around Manchester Meadows for the soccer tournament drove away local patrons, further hurting their businesses. Organizers say traffic went smoothly because of the efficient shuttle bus system used to transport tournament visitors.
• If the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce asks us to shop locally, shouldnt the same standard apply to teams coming to Rock Hill? Instead of playing locally and staying in Charlotte, shouldnt they have to stay here?
In this case, organizers knew U.S. Youth Soccer rules meant players would be housed in Charlotte. But, the facilities and the hospitality shown locally means more parents would be likely to stay in Rock Hill if the tournament or their teams return, Vastag said. Its about getting the word out, he said.
While economics may be the best way to quantify the tournament, it isnt the best measure of success. The life lessons learned by the players and the young people who volunteered at the tournament are incalculable.
Organized sports at any level should be about sportsmanship, teamwork and commitment. They were certainly shown at the U.S. Youth Soccer Championships. No individual won any of these games.
I was reminded of these life lessons Sunday while watching the U-16 Braddock Road Youth Club Elite girls of northern Virginia play the Mountain View-Los Altos Lightning team from California. Four of the MVLA girls have been playing together since age 8, an amazing streak of more than 450 games.
I attended the game because years ago, when it was the Braddock Road Boys Club, coaches taught me those life lessons.
I came to offer my support, but after talking to the BRYC parents, realized these girls, regardless of the outcome were already winners because of the values they had learned, and the support they had received. The same was true of their opponents, and every other team at the tournament. For the record, the BRYC Elite won the U-16 championship, 1-0.
Before leaving the field I paused to say thank you to all my boys club and Little League coaches but, most of all, to six young men who taught me about sacrifice.
On a June night in 1967 soldiers from Fort Belvoir volunteered to move light poles at the fields used by the boys club and North Springfield Little League. When they finished, someone asked them to install a flag pole.
The pole hit a 7,200 volt power line. Killed were Pvt. Paul Briggs of Waco, Texas; Pvt. Anthony Evans of Uniontown, Pa.; Pfc Marvin D. Harrison of Jacksonville, Fla.; Pvt. Charles Oliver of Vermillion, Ohio; Spec. 4 Kenneth Steiner of St. Ann, Mo.; and Pvt. Charles Whaley, of Manchester, Ohio. Most were 18 or 19 years old, the oldest 21.
I carry their lesson, their legacy forward. And thats what this soccer tournament was really all about lessons and legacies.
My hope is we were building a legacy for the players in the tournament and the children who volunteered at the games, said Vastag of the local organizing committee.
These youthful volunteers saw amazing soccer, he said. Hopefully, they will aspire to be in the tournament one day.
Don Worthington firstname.lastname@example.org