Millions of dollars will be pumped into the local economy from this week’s annual Keystone State Games Festival of Sports, said Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Janet Hall.
Modeled after Olympic games, the festival is the state’s largest annual multi-sport competition for amateur athletes, its website says. The annual economic impact was cited at more than $10 million in York County, which previously hosted the event, Hall said.
“It’s big,” Hall said. “Thousands of athletes will participate in the games. With their families included, that’s a lot of people coming.”
Hotels and other lodging establishments are among the beneficiaries. Hall said her office has been “scrambling” to help secure hotel rooms, in part because other events also are scheduled around the same time, including the Strive Triathlon on July 29 at Beech Mountain Lakes in Butler Township and the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond July 27 to 29.
Many area hotels are now packed the last weekend of July, she said.
Keystone competitors and supporters also will visit area restaurants and stores, she said.
“It even trickles down to the gas stations,” she said.
Hall praised area hotels for refusing to jack up rates for Keystone participants due to the high demand.
While the Keystone is locked in here for 2018 and 2019, event participants will provide feedback that helps determines if it relocates after that, she said.
“Our hotels have been great. They are acting as partners hoping to keep the event here for years to come,” Hall said.
The county visitor’s bureau has asked area businesses to post signs welcoming Keystone athletes to the area. Hall’s staffers also are placing brochures of local attractions at area hotels and Keystone events to encourage them to linger or return, she said.
“We want them to have a positive experience,” Hall said.
Ross Kornfeld, an owner of The Woodlands Inn, said his hotel and entertainment complex on Route 315 in Plains Township provided complimentary conference room access and discounted room rates to Keystone staffers staying there.
“We wanted to be the host hotel and welcome them to our area. We want them to come back,” Kornfeld said.
His establishment will post a message on its sign greeting the visitors.
“Any kind of special events that come to Wilkes-Barre are great for everybody in the area,” Kornfeld said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
The Keystone games are the latest in a steady stream of athletic competitions held in the area, said Patricia Kobela, overseer of regional sales and business development for Chartwell Hotels, which operates the Holiday Inn Express on Route 315, also in Plains Township.
Tournaments at several area venues attract visitors throughout the year, including the Wyoming Valley Sports Dome in Plains Township, the county-owned Forty Fort Recreation Complex maintained and managed by Whitewater Challengers and amenities operated by King’s College, Wilkes University and Misericordia University, Kobela said.
“The whole sports component in this area is very, very big,” Kobela said. “From youth to collegiate to adults, there is always something going on.”
Since their inception in the early 1980s, the Keystone summer games have been held in this area twice — 1987 through 1989 and 2002 through 2004, according to past published reports. Most recently, the games were held in the York area.
Other counties across the state competed for the hosting opportunity because of the economic benefits, Hall has said. Her agency’s pitch to attract the event promoted the county’s lodging options, proximity to major highways and availability of flights at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.