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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
There's a cheerleading and dance competition in Charlotte this weekend. It's part of the youth and amateur sports market that cites are competing to win.
Organizers say The Spirit of Hope Cheerleading and Dance National Championship at the Charlotte Convention Center is attracting people from "15 states - as far north as Pennsylvania, all the way down to Florida and over to Tennessee."
Adam Thomas, President of Universal Spirit, says "252 teams, 6,000 athletes, 18,000 attendees will be attending throughout the weekend."
Experts say cities are targeting the youth/amateur sports market as a 'get' because the competitions and events fill what used to be significant vacant time periods in the hospitality industry.
"Like summer, weekends," says Mike Butts, Executive Director of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. "Those are times hotels are typically slow or restaurants are slow. That's great business in these periods that maybe corporate meeting don't happen."
Officials say youth competitions have become like "family vacations, family events so they travel in groups."
The CRVA says youth sports market has "grown in Charlotte really dramatically." According to Butts, amateur sports accounted for 53% of hotel bookings in the Charlotte region from July 2011 to June 2012.
This weekend's cheerleading competition will take place in Uptown. Hotels like the Westin Charlotte will get a boost in room bookings.
"Anytime we can bring in a convention that touches a weekend like MLK weekend, it's a benefit to all hotels in the uptown market place", says David Montgomery, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Westin Charlotte.
Vinay Patel of SREE Hotels says typically youth events like basketball, soccer or baseball tournaments take place outside of Uptown. "They happen on the periphery. They happen where facilities are and that's where our hotels are. We rely on these events, these sports."
Patel says his hotels are along the I-485 corridor. He says the youth/amateur sports market "fills a niche. A lot of our hotels are corporate hotels. So Sunday through Thursday is not typically an issue for us. It's getting that Friday/Saturday business - that's what amateur sports brings for us."