Providence, Rhode Island, may not be where every Floridian teen dreams about spending a weekend in the dead of winter. But it was an easy sell to about 120 elite cheerleaders from Tampa—once they heard they wouldn’t have to step outside after arriving at their hotel. With its insulated infrastructure surrounding Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence is a destination that’s become a hotbed for many youth sports events, particularly in the dance arena.
Preparations are underway for two major dance competitions in 2015, the North American Irish Dance Championships in July and Athletic Championships, the elite-level cheerleading meet in late January that sparked the interest of the Tampa teens. The events would be a major presence in any city, but they will take over Providence, and city officials and businesses couldn’t be happier about it.
“One thing about these groups is that when they’re here, you know they’re here,” says John Gibbons, executive director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission. The competitors will often walk around the mall and eat at restaurants in their distinct outfits, so businesses can see the economic impact. “When you have a conventioneer in town and they take off their badges, they could be anybody,” says Gibbons. “But with these folks, they are very identifiable.”
Planners of both events have similar reasons for choosing Providence, starting with the convenience of having a convention center, hotels, retail and restaurants in close proximity. It’s enough to warm attendees’ spirits, if not the outside temperatures in January.