The US Quadball Cup 2023 (pictured above; photo by Tom "Chiddy" Powers) is a big deal for the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board. More than 60 teams competed in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, April 15-16—filling valuable hotel room nights between spring break and upcoming summer vacations.
The two-day event is one example of the important role nontraditional competitions can play for CVBs and sports commissions. Here are some examples of the far-ranging nature of sports tourism.
Destinations can have a card up their sleeve by seeking out popular bridge competitions. The American Contract Bridge League hosts three national tournaments per year—spring, summer (the largest), and fall.
The North American Bridge Championships returns to its roots this summer in Chicago, host of the original NABC in 1927 and a regular in the tournament rotation. The 2023 summer championship will be July 13-23 at Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk—past venues include the Hilton and Towers and Hyatt Regency. In 2015, the Chicago Summer NABC held 13,685 tables over a 10-day span consisting of approximately 6,000 participants, about one-fourth of whom were local or within driving distance.
“It is hard to explain the feeling of camaraderie that bridge tournaments instill,” says tournament chair Suzi Subeck. “Even groups of 6,000 players can feel close to one another.”
Subeck is a former president of the American Contract Bridge League and is currently chief communications officer of the United States Bridge Federation, the organization that selects the teams representing the USA in international competition, to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, in August. She expects attendance in Chicago to suffer some residual effects from the pandemic, with the goal to be at 4,000 card players. “The ‘sport’ is building back up again but it takes time,” she says.
Because playing sessions are at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., having easy access to restaurants nearby the venue is important for lunch. The ACBL also requires approximately 100,000 square feet of playing space, allowing us to set up tables on 8-foot centers so hands are not visible from one table to the next to preserve the integrity of the game. Convention centers are also used for large tournaments.
Some of us have never solved a Rubik’s cube. Others can do it in seconds. CubingUSA holds nine regional championships, including the CubingUSA Southeast Championship 2023 in Orange Beach, Alabama, this past weekend. Orange Beach Event Center at the Wharf hosted 230 competitors from 11 countries competing in 16 different categories, including the standard 3x3x3 cube, the 7x7x7 cube and even 3x3 blindfolded.
“As we continue to diversify the events we bid on and host in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, this cubing championship will not only bring sports/event-related tourism dollars to the destination but will also expose families from around the globe to Alabama’s beaches,” said Michelle Russ, vice president of sales, sports and events for Gulf Shores Orange Beach Sports & Events.
A Netflix documentary, “The Speed Cubers,” highlights cubing’s growing popularity.
Other destinations hosting regionals are:
After the pandemic forced a recess in 2021 to a virtual model, the 2023 World Jump Rope Championships are leaping back to a major in-person event this summer in Colorado Springs. Pepsi is among the sponsors for the July 16-23 International Jump Rope Union competition at Ed Robson Arena on the Colorado College campus. Team Travel Source is the official housing company.
More than 3,000 athletes, coaches, and officials are expected to attend. Organizers cite the accessibility and low costs as positives for driving athletes to the sport. Championship competitions include:
- Double Dutch Contest – urban culture fused with acrobatics, dance and music
- Single Rope and Double Dutch Speed – the fastest jumpers alive
- Single Rope and Double Dutch Freestyle – acrobatics with unlimited skill combinations and endurance.
Past world championship sites include Oslofjord, Norway (near Oslo), in 2019; and Shanghai and Orlando in 2018. Tickets for this year’s event went on sale in early April.
Officials are eager to get back to holding the event every two years. The next RFP cycle is expected to begin in 2024.
Few sports are less traditional than Quadball, which rebranded last year to distance itself—for economic and social reasons—from its “Harry Potter” origins. Its springtime championship is coveted.
Despite being a relatively new sport, US Quadball has done well to spread the game across the county. Pennsylvania is the seventh state to host the US Quadball Cup after Florida, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Vermont—where the sport took off at Middlebury College.
More than 1,200 athletes competed on club and college teams outside of Philadelphia last week.
Beyond athletes holding brooms as they play, Quadball is unusual in myriad ways. It is a cross between basketball, rugby, and dodgeball.
Additionally, it is mixed gender and takes special care when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Photo Credits: Tom "Chiddy" Powers, CubingUSA, Farrell Sports