CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - While travel and tourism are down in this recession one area of the economy that doesn't seem to be taking a break is youth sports. Starting this weekend, athletes will be arriving in Charlotte for North Carolina's version of the Olympics.
Millions of dollars are headed our way and it's a chance for all of us to get off the couch. We're talking about the State Games of North Carolina. It's been around more than 20 years, but has never been held in Charlotte before.
"Let's get ready to rumble!"
Charlotte's been a weak area for the State Games. For all of its 20 year history it's been held in either the Raleigh or Greensboro areas.
The Queen City made a bid five years ago, rolls out the red carpet this month.
"Communities want to host the state games mainly for the economic impact," says Chuck Hobgood, president of NC Amateur Sports, the non-profit that sponsors the State Games.
The Games are worth more than $4 million to the local economy.
They bring in more than 15,000 athletes, 750 teams, competing more than 25 events.
There's the traditional-- track and field, soccer, baseball, basketball and bowling.
To non-traditional sports.. . like disc golf, canoe and kayaking.. ice hockey and figure skating.
And while the economy has put travel and tourism on the skids, youth sports seems to be an exception.
"It's all doom and gloom right now, but sports is doing really well," says Hobgood. "People are still loading up their minivans, taking their kids to soccer tournaments and baseball tournaments and doing what they can for their kids. We're excited."
And that's worth a drum roll!
Venues for the games cover Mecklenburg county top to bottom. Many of them, Park and Recreation facilities. And private venues like Indian Trail's "Extreme Ice Center." along with area colleges and universities.
But what sets the State Games apart is it's not just for teens and tweens.
Competition is open to children as young as three and four and adults-- of any age. Organizers say some 70 and 80 year olds are coming.
"Idea here is to give folks an opportunity to participate here at home in some really good competitive opportunities," says Phil Fleischmann with Mecklenburg Park & Recreation.
A recent U.S. Surgeon General report called physical inactivity "a serious nationwide problem."
The State Games, officials say promote not only competition but physical fitness and health. And get people off the couch.
Park and Rec's County Athletic Manager Fleischmann, "Doesn't matter what your interest is.. there's something there for you."
Charlotte's hosting the State Games this year and next year. And for the first time residents from South Carolina are invited to participate.
Opening ceremonies are one week from tonight at the US National Whitewater Center in west Mecklenburg county. But track and field competitions get underway tomorrow at Johnson C. Smith University.
Is it too late for people to get in? Some team events have closed, but there are some sports still open.. some have registration on-site.