Hosting an event like U.S. Quidditch Cup 9, it’s fitting staff and volunteers at The Fields at Saluda Shoals in Columbia, South Carolina, had some serious sweeping to do days before the tournament. The way the community rallied around the new sports facility made the April 16-17 event’s success all the more magical.
“It was quite a task and quite a feat” to be ready for the Quidditch Cup, says J. Ashley Smith, market development director at the Columbia-based Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission.
Built upon on an old industrial site where television capacitors were made, the venue was slated for completion in August 2015. Then came the “1,000-year flood,” as Smith describes last fall’s torrential storms. Some parts of the park were 10 to 12 feet under water, he recalls. “We had dead fish on the playgrounds—that’s how high the water got,” says Smith.
Bringing the all-natural Bermuda grass back to life took dedication and the impetus of a major event coming to town. The six multi-use fields were ready for action late last fall, says Smith, but landscaping projects like fencing, gates and restrooms came down to the wire in April.
More than 60 teams, totaling 1,200 athletes, participated in the “Harry Potter”-inspired games, drawing more than 5,000 spectators.
The Columbia Regional Sports Council estimates the event had an economic impact of more than $850,000. Smith says the ability to host tournaments benefitting Columbia spurred the redevelopment of the site.
“It’s exciting for us because we were able to take what was a blight in our community and turn it into an economic stabilizer,” he says, noting that fact was not lost as touch-up work was done before the Quidditch Cup. “The community understood what the event meant to them economically, and that [they] needed to get it done.”
During the site visit last July, the rec team painted a quidditch pitch on the fully-grown grass to help the organizers to visualize the event there. And just as North Myrtle Beach won its bid for the 2015 cup before its venue was completed, Columbia scored the big win prior to the Fields going online.
Quidditch, which combines elements of dodgeball, rugby and tag, presented an opportunity to demonstrate the versatility of the facility. “Anyone can host soccer,” Smith jokes.
Not a laughing matter is how seriously the participants take the game. “A lot of people don’t see this is a real sport, but these are athletes,” Smith says.
Columbia and the Fields already have a bid to host the tournament again in 2017, which would keep it in the Palmetto State for a third-straight year.
Technically, the Fields at Saluda Shoals won’t be completely finished until Memorial Day weekend. However, the venue has several races and a lacrosse tournament on the books for the summer, says Smith. In the meantime, Smith continues work to make the new sports venue the city’s busiest. He says optimally, it would host two major events per month.
Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography