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Feb 22, 2012 7:07 PM by Andy Koen

National championships signal new trend in Pueblo tourism strategy

Hundreds of the nation's best college athletes will come to Massari Arena at Colorado State University-Pueblo next month for the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships. Even more will be in town in May for the National Track and Field Championships.

Niki Whitaker, Associate Athletic Director for CSU-Pueblo, says the campus pushed to bring the high-profile events to the community.

"We felt like our facilities are comparable to many of those in the Division Two ranks and we thought it would be a great opportunity to show off Pueblo," Whitaker said.

Sports are big money makers for a community as athletes, coaches and parents stay in locals hotels and eat at local restaurants.

"People from Pueblo travel all the time with youth football as far away as Arizona to compete in tournaments and things like that," Slyhoff sadi. "The same thing will hold true for them coming here."

Each events by itself would generate a significant economic impact for the community. Slyhoff says the community wants to attract even more regional and national competition to town as part of a long-term tourism strategy.

"Amateur athletics is a target area that our community is moving into and it has a big part to do with our regional tourism application that we have into the state," he said.

That application would put a funding mechanism in place to build several new sports and special events facilities downtown near the riverwalk and Pueblo Convention Center.

Thanks to a $32 million upgrade a few years ago, the facilities at CSU-Pueblo are already considered top notch. Slyhoff says Pueblo is also an affordable travel destination and those two factors make the community attractive to national sports events planners.

Financiall speaking, Whitaker says this year's championships will be a break even proposition. However, the publicity alone makes hosting the events worth their time.

"Hosting an event like this, our name is listed on every brochure and every pamphlet that's give out to these kids, everything on there says Pueblo, Colorado; Colorado State University-Pueblo."

The wrestling tournament takes place March 9-10 at Massari Arena. A four event pass costs $30 and can be purchased at the CSU-Pueblo Athletics Office. The track and field championships will be held May 25-26 at the Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl.

There are many volunteer opportunities for both events. If you'd like to help contact Associate Athletic Director Niki Whitaker at (719)549-2021.

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