ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford residents might see some unfamiliar faces around town this week.
That is because wrestlers from 24 different states are taking part in this year’s “U16 National Freestyle and Greco-Roman Tournament.” at Mercyhealth Sportscore Two.
Twelve-hundred wrestler and their families are in town. That is a lot a wrestling and a whole lot of revenue being generated for the stateline.
“You know, we’re filling the hotels, we’re filling restaurants, the gas stations are selling gas,” said Gene Lee, vice president of marketing and communications for the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation. “You know, the convenience stores are selling, you know, the snacks. It’s a win-win.”
A huge economic boost is in store for the stateline as it hosts the best 15- and 16-year-old wrestlers in the nation. The tournament is expected to create about $1.3 million in revenue, with more than 4,000 visitors coming from out of state for the week.
“Throwing ideas around, depending on what time we get out,” said Melissa and Henry Vanderheiden of Team Wisconsin. “Go mini golfing, saw some nature trails too that maybe we can take in.”
“Eating food,” added Brayden, Dean and Emilio of Team Pennsylvania. “Yeah, eating food is a must.”
The Rockford area has grown in reputation as a sports destination with the help of the BMO Harris Bank Center, or in this case Sportscore Two.
“You bring in youth, so when you bring in youth, guess who follows them? You know, Mom, dad, brothers, sisters, grandparents,” Lee said. “You know, for the economy, I mean, the tax revenue being generated is crazy.”
“Thirty-nine teams from, obviously, the whole United States. There’s a few states that have brought two teams, but just to be able to have space around each, and then they’ve done an awesome job of getting bleachers for each cheering section, if you want to call it that,” added Scott ‘Arnie’ Arneson of Team Wisconsin. “This is a great, great facility. Hopefully they can keep it here for a few more years.”
“That place is off the chain,” said Amy Beck of Team Illinois. “You know, you’re going out, you’re meeting different people, you’re changing numbers, and all these people are traveling to different states because of it. So, I mean, it’s a good grow for all.”
The Rockford area is expecting more than $3 million in revenue over the two-year contract to host the tournament.