ST. GEORGE — Although six more weeks of winter was the prediction made on Groundhog Day, the St. George area is ready to roll out its famous sunshine and welcome an influx of visitors for Presidents Day weekend.
While not the only thing going on in St. George, sporting events will definitely rule the roost this weekend. Early season soccer and baseball tournaments will use nearly every patch of green as thousands of out-of-town visitors surge into the region.
“Our mild temperatures provoke people to get active outside, and our convenient recreational facilities have made us a must-book destination for regional and national sporting events,” said Kevin Lewis, director of sports marketing for the St. George Area Tourism office. “The visitors we have who return every year tell me that the prospect of spending a few days in our climate gives them something to look forward to as they endure the frigid winter along the Rocky Mountain region.”
Additionally, the economic impact of the youth tournaments taking place Presidents Day weekend is substantial, Lewis said, given the fact that each player is accompanied by parents and siblings who stay at area hotels, eat at restaurants and spend money shopping or on recreational activities.
Attracting some of the largest crowds this holiday weekend is Utah Competitive Soccer’s “Ice Breaker Tournament,” which includes more than 250 teams and an estimated 4,000 players and coaches.
“People love this tournament,” said Robert Horn, owner and operator of the Utah Sports Lodge, which organizes and runs the tournament. “It’s the perfect time as winter is nearing an end, and players and teams are anxious to head outdoors and prepare for their spring season.”
The “Rage Invitational” will also bring a significant quantity of visitors to the area. Tournament director Paul Miravete said he expects 184 teams with nearly 3,000 players, coaches, team managers and referees.
In addition to the soccer tournaments, visitors also come to St. George to participate in the Rocky Mountain School of Baseball’s sizable “Presidents’ Day Tournament,” whic includes 135 competition teams — adding up to more than 2,000 players, coaches and umpires.
“The approaching spring means it’s time for baseball,” Rocky Mountain School of Baseball President Dennis Udy said. “We have teams from nine different states coming to our tournament, including seven teams from Minneapolis. We’d like to thank all the municipalities that are allowing us to use their fields, including St. George, Washington, Hurricane, La Verkin, Toquerville, Ivins, Santa Clara and Moapa.”
Statistics provided by tournament organizers from the Ice Breaker tournament, Rage Invitational and the Rocky Mountain School of Baseball indicate that an average of about 83 percent of the visitors for these tournaments are from outside the area. The sports commission estimates the economic impact of those three tournaments to be between $12 million to $14 million.
“We’re looking at a conservative estimate of about 25,000 visitors heading to the St. George area for the Presidents Day Weekend,” Lewis said. “That truly is remarkable and says something about what a destination we have become.”
The area also expects a large turnout for the 10-day St. George Area Parade of Homes that starts Friday and runs through Feb. 26. The self-guided home tour features 28 brand new homes and is projected to attract more than 30,000 people over its duration.
“Presidents Day Weekend definitely is one of the busiest and starts the tourism season with a bang,” Roxie Sherwin, St. George tourism office director, said. “So many people love our location and with the harsh winter on the Wasatch Front, I expect a large migration to the south. Everybody is ready to get outside, and we are the perfect destination for that.”