Rock hill, South Carolina, has a growing sports tourism industry designed to bring significant economic impact to the area. About seven years ago, the city of Rock Hill started developing the Riverwalk community, with one of its major attractions being the BMX Supercross track. And, this past July, the City of Rock Hill hosted the UCI BMX World Challenge and World Championships.
Mayor Echols explains, “One of the things that we have said all along about Sports Tourism is that it provides a tremendous economic impact. We have measured over the last ten years, well over 150 million dollars of economic impact from our sports tourism...that sounds like good business to me. This event by itself will generate approximately $13 million in economic impact over a 10-day period. You got 20,000 expected visitors from around the world, here over a ten-day period, so when you think of having this kind of event…certainly it’s a bicycle event, and it’s a major world championship, but it’s much, much more than that when you think about an economic impact."
John Taylor, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism adds on to that, saying, “The restaurants are full, the hotels are full, so we know people are sleeping and eating in our area, so that’s great. It’s also given the community that sense of pride that we want to show the world what Rock Hill is all about and we’re very proud of that.”
An event of this magnitude would not have been possible, if it weren’t for the City of Rock Hill’s attention to detail and forward-thinking.
John Taylor explains, “When it came to the cycling facilities, we went to UCI, we went to USA Cycling and said, ‘help us create something, so we will be able to draw an event like this,’ and as you can see, that’s been successful." He comments that, “A lot of people have moved here to train because of the facilities we have.”
Anna Beynon, UCI BMX World Championships competitor, says she and her family decided to move to the Rock Hill area when the track was first announced. She explains that , “We found if they were gonna get Worlds this year, which made us really, really excited, that we were going to move here and have this as our home track for Worlds.” She compliments the track, saying “It’s so awesome to have such a good track to train on, it kind of spoils me because I’ll go to other tracks that aren’t as good, and I’ll be disappointed, but it’s so awesome to have such a good facility that’s open so many days of the week to train on.”
Sports tourism in Rock Hill will only continue to grow in the upcoming years. There are plans to build a cyclo-cross track and a new indoor facility.
Mayor Echols explains, “In a year to a year-and-a-half, that facility will be complete. It’s 125 thousand square feet under one roof, and what we will be hosting there are major volleyball, basketball tournaments and a plethora of other things that can be conducted over a closed arena, and we have identified over 50 different kinds of activities that can go on in there. It's located right near Winthrop University, and to show you what kind of economic driver that is, there’s a 200-room hotel going right next door, so when you think about sports and how sports tourism helps to leverage all of these other things, I think its great for our city.”
He says, “We will have all five elements of USA cycling in one location. We don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that’s got them all in one place. There are a lot of nice facilities, but there’s maybe one facility, and we’re going to have the criterium course, cyclo-cross course, 8 miles of mountain biking, the velodrome and the BMX track, and that’s all elements of BMX cycling.”