Last month, Portland hosted the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. While not likely what comes to mind when thinking of major sporting events, it nonetheless drew a lot of visitors to the city, with an economic impact estimated at $1.5 million. Portland won the bid to host the Championships because of the joint efforts of the Oregon Skating Council, the Oregon Sports Authority, and Travel Portland. According to Bill Cloran, president of the Oregon Skating Council, while this is the first time this event has been held here, the three organizations have been working together to host skating events since the 2005 U.S. nationals were held in Portland. At these championships, over 2,300 figure skaters from 89 of the nation's top synchronized skating teams participated. (For those unfamiliar with the sport, synchronized skating consists of teams of eight to 20 skaters on the ice performing routines in unison to music. There is no age limit and skaters' ages range from children to adults of retirement age.) Not to leave out other sports, Portland last year hosted the Gay Softball World Series (240 teams and 3,500 players from the U.S. and Canada); as well as the USA Fencing North America Cup, NAIA Cross Country Championships, USA Badminton Masters International Championships, and last but definitely not least, the World Footbag Championships. Yes, that's hacky sack.
Before Portlanders get excited about the city's Olympic dreams, they should know that hosting a major sporting events has its downsides too. While it's undisputed that such events boost cities' brand profiles—so-called "place marketing"—host cities also tend to invest significant resources and time, often for short-lived benefits. Consider Olympic host cities Barcelona, Athens, and Rio de Janeiro, which not only spent millions of dollars, but also sacrificed historic, scenic parts of the city, and ended up with major debt and decay problems. For the non-Olympic U.S. sports industry, the stats are pretty dazzling though…over $69 billion in ticket and merchandise sales, media rights and sponsorship fees, according to the latest sports outlook from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which number is expected to hit $75 billion by 2020. While Portland's got a long way to go for major sports, according to a WalletHub assessment of U.S. cities' sport worthiness from sporting fans' perspective, which ranks Portland in overall place #35 (Boston, New York and LA ranked the top three spots, respectively), Portland ranks #5 for Major League Soccer. In addition, Portland seems to also rank high in other, non-major sporting events. Next up, the USA BMX Great Northwest National in April and NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June.