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Print

Bassmaster crowds in Tulsa top 100K

March 06, 2013 at 10:02 PM

The Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The 2013 Bassmaster Classic caught a whopper of a crowd this past week as numbers exceeded expectations and swelled to a near-record 106,850, according to information released Tuesday by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.

On Saturday and Sunday, organizers had to close the doors of the BOK Center after maximum capacity was reached as pros brought in fish they caught at Grand Lake to be weighed in front of fans.

Mississippi angler Cliff Pace won the world championship trophy and a $500,000 prize.

While it's too early to know the detailed economic impact of the sporting extravaganza, referred to by some as the "Super Bowl" of fishing, early indications show the event provided a significant boost for area retailers, restaurants and hotels.

Tourism officials initially predicted the tournament would attract 100,000 visitors and provide a $26 million lift for the local economy. They said additional tax revenue for the city of Tulsa could reach between $1.5 million and $2 million.

The impact of the tournament from a sales tax perspective will become more apparent in the next two months after reports are released and the data can be compared with last year's numbers, Bob Ball, economist with the Tulsa Regional Chamber, told the Tulsa World (http://is.gd/dRlhxM).

Tournament officials, meanwhile, were not hesitant to call the classic a splashing success.

"We were elated with the turnout from Tulsa and nearby communities for the world championship - as well as the thousands who traveled to see the classic from other states," BASS CEO Bruce Akin said in a written statement.

Jeff Stava, chairman of the local committee that helped attract and organize the event, said the fan turnout might have been even better if not for snow in Kansas and other areas in the region that made travel difficult.

"The downtown Tulsa hotels all were nearly full for the week, but some of the outlying hotels were not as full as they might have been if the weather had been better," he said.

Still, Stava said both BASS officials and anglers seemed impressed by the warm welcome they received in Tulsa, Catoosa, Grove and other communities.

He said his group is hoping to get the tournament back to town in a few years.

"We haven't started those conversations yet, but we will in a couple of weeks." Stava said.

More than 106,000 people attended the fishing tournament's various venues, including 42,593 during the three daily weigh-ins at the BOK Center, according to BASS.

In addition, more than 54,000 people attended the Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods during the 2 1/2 days it was open at the Tulsa Convention Center.

"We are extremely pleased with the success of the Tulsa 2013 Bassmaster Classic, presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The combination of new and loyal local fans alike, and visitors from across the country, made Tulsa's Bassmaster Classic event the second-largest in the event's 43-year history," said Ray Hoyt, senior vice president of VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Sports Commission, in a written statement.

The event generated a lot of excitement and helped showcase the Tulsa area in a new way, supporters said.

More than 240 media representatives were granted credentials for the fishing tournament, which received daily coverage nationwide through subscribers to The Associated Press and major newspapers and magazines ranging in location from San Diego to Miami, Fla.

The Weather Channel broadcast live from the boat launch site at Grove, and it provided reports and video from the event throughout the weekend.

"It was a home run, without a doubt. That's what everybody has told me as well, and I've observed that. ... The event itself really created a buzz in the community," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

Even those who didn't attend any of the activities heard what a great event it was - fun and unique in character, said Bartlett, who attended what he called the "suspenseful" weigh-ins at the BOK Center.

"It was like watching an NBA basketball game go into its second overtime," he said. "It was really very tense and great fun."

There's a good chance - although it's not a slam dunk by any stretch - that the Tulsa area could land another significant fishing tournament in the next two to five years, Bartlett said.

Sarah Haertl, regional director of marketing for the BOK Center and Tulsa Convention Center, said the event exceeded all expectations.

"The support from the community was phenomenal," she said. "Everything we heard from Bassmaster and the public - it was a great event, and that people would love to host the event again in the future."

At least one retailer reported a big boost for its business. Patrick Daniels, operations manager for Bass Pro Shops, said he couldn't release sales data for proprietary reasons, but he did note that the outdoors store experienced a "significant increase" in revenue over last year's Spring Fishing Classic, which this year started during the Bassmaster Classic.

He estimated the store saw an increase in foot traffic anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent. During the tournament, Bass Pro Shops provided shuttle service from its Broken Arrow location to downtown Tulsa. There were a lot of people with "fishing on the mind" who were inclined to check out the Bass Pro Shops facility while in town, he said.

Not everyone, however, including some restaurant owners in the downtown area, reported seeing much of a difference in their business during the duration of the fishing tournament. Among them was Michael Denson, an owner of the S&J Oyster Co., 308 E. First St.

"I personally didn't see much of a business increase," Denson said. "I do know that I had some Bassmaster people in here in the afternoon and possibly later in the evening on Saturday night, but I couldn't see any increase in volume."

In contrast, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said he was thrilled with the return on the tribe's investment as a presenting sponsor. The 450-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, 777 W. Cherokee St. in Catoosa, was full for the weekend.

"We set records for attendance and casino play," he said. "The Bassmaster Classic absolutely exceeded our expectations. We'd like to do it again."

Stava said BASS officials have shown interest in possibly highlighting another lake when they return, such as Eufaula or Fort Gibson.

"It has to be a major fishery that can support 50 pro anglers over three days," he said. "We're optimistic we're going to be able to get this event back to the area."

___

Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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