Bassmaster Classic boosting area's economy
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer & JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Friday, February 22, 2013
2/22/13 at 7:33 AM
Bassmaster Classic coverage: From the morning launch to the evening weigh-ins, get complete Classic coverage. And find more on the event, including a Google Maps video tour of Grand Lake and maps of Tulsa’s entertainment districts and restaurants.
Luring a major sporting event like the Bassmaster Classic to the Tulsa area is expected to reel in a lot of national exposure, a tourism influx and a huge economic impact.
With thousands of fishing and outdoors enthusiasts descending on the area, everyone from hotels to restaurants to retailers are expecting to catch a windfall in increased foot traffic and sales.
Tourism officials expect 100,000 visitors and a $26 million boost to the local economy. Tax revenue for the city of Tulsa is estimated to be between $1.5 million and $2 million.
In the event itself, 53 of the world's best anglers will compete for a $500,000 top prize Friday through Sunday at Grand Lake. Total prize money is $1.2 million.
Crowds of bass fans are projected to converge on both downtown's BOK Center, which will host the daily weigh-ins, and the nearby Tulsa Convention Center, where the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo featuring 200 vendors will be held.
"It's a huge event for us. We're using the entire footprint of both buildings, which I'm not sure has ever been done ... since the BOK Center was built," said Sarah Haertl, regional director of marketing for the BOK Center and Tulsa Convention Center.
The Doubletree Hotel Downtown, which is the headquarters hotel for the fishing tournament, at midweek already is seeing about a 20 percent increase in revenue, which is "huge," said Bruce Sneller, the hotel's general manager. He noted that the hotel, 616 W. Seventh St., is sold out for the length of the tournament.
While the hotel will use a little bit of temporary help for housekeeping, it mainly will rely on its current staff to handle the guests. The timing of the fishing tournament coincides with the recent opening of the hotel's Made Market fast-casual restaurant, and the hotel is anticipating heavy bar usage as well, Sneller said.
Nearby, at 100 E. Second St., the Hyatt Regency Hotel this week reported being sold out Wednesday through Saturday and being close to full for Sunday, too.
"Really, there's not a lot that goes on in February, and the Bassmaster Classic has provided a lift," said Jeff Keeley, general manager.
"I don't think the surrounding hotels are as busy as downtown, but it's definitely helped downtown," he said.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa expects to be full, said Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton. The hotel, 777 W. Cherokee St. in Catoosa, recently added a tower and now has 450 rooms.
"We're a presenting sponsor of the event," Slaton said. "We're excited about it. It's being held on Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. That's good for us, since everything between Tulsa and Grand Lake is the Cherokee Nation. A lot of the nearby communities and businesses should benefit."
Slaton said the hotel and casino is hosting special dinners and will be giving away a $50,000 custom bass boat.
Area retailers also are hopeful about hooking some fishing fans.
Amy Adkins, owner of The Gadget Co. at 104 E. 15th St., expects to see increased foot traffic at her shop as it generally does during a local specialty event. Tulsans, including employees of hotels and restaurants, are good about referring people to the store, she said.
Although The Gadget Co. usually sees more trout fans than bass anglers, outdoors people of all types visit the store for sundry items, including gear, knives and multi-tools, she said.
The timing of the tournament coincides with Bass Pro Shop's Spring Fishing Classic, which starts Friday and includes some of the store's best prices of the year on fishing and marine items, the retailer's managers said. The free 17-day event runs until March 10 at the Broken Arrow store, 101 Bass Pro Drive, and will include seminars, tank demonstrations and visits by big-name fishermen. Kids also will be able to take part in a catch-and-release pond set up inside the store.
It's kind of a "perfect storm" to have the two events taking place at the same time, said Patrick Daniels, operations manager for the store. The Spring Fishing Classic by itself draws larger crowds to the store, but combined with the Bassmaster Classic, the store definitely should see more customers, although trying to guess how many is a "shot in the dark," he said.
Based on numbers from some of the other comparable stores located close to sites where the Bassmaster Classic has been held, the Broken Arrow location could see a 20 percent increase in foot traffic, Daniels said.
Bass Pro Shops will also be providing free parking and shuttle service from the store to the downtown Tulsa Convention Center and BOK weigh-in. Two shuttles will be available from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Shuttles are expected to depart about every 30 minutes from the store.
"The Bassmaster Classic by itself is going to draw a huge crowd of anglers and fans, who are going to be looking for something to do in the evening and outside of the expo," Daniels said.
Debbie Bottoroff, the acting city manager of Grove, says the fishing tournament will help economic development and have a noticeable impact for years.
"We definitely know the fishermen are in town," she said. "Our convenience stores are really busy with the filling of their big trucks and boats with gas. Our restaurants are busy. We're really not sure what to expect or how many to expect, but we have definitely seen an increase in our traffic.
"We have a lot of individuals who are sharing their homes or renting out their homes to the anglers. We really are excited about having the opportunity to show off Grove and Grand Lake to the world."
Area restaurants also should see increased traffic from the Bassmaster Classic.
Libby Auld, owner of Elote Cafe and The Vault, both in downtown Tulsa, said she is preparing for a jump in business.
"We've stocked up on food and drinks," she said.
Auld had some fun by creating a poster for Elote showing a luchador fishing. Elote, 514 S. Boston Ave., has become known for sponsoring wrestling matches.
Brian Fontaine, general manager for the bar division of McNellie's Group, which operates restaurants such as James E. McNellie's Public House, El Guapo's Cantina and Yokozuna, as well as the Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge, all downtown, said his company has set up a special tent restaurant near the Convention Center.
"It's part of what we're calling the Bass Bash," he said. City officials are shutting down Third Street between the Convention Center and the BOK Center to create an entertainment area that will feature live music, food and drink vendors.
Jeff Stava, chairman of the organizing committee, hopes visitors and Bassmaster executives like what they see in Tulsa.
"We want to make a deal to get the Bassmaster Classic back every five years or so," Stava said.
A successful tournament on the scale of the Bassmaster Classic also would bode well for other local economic development efforts, he said.
"If it's a success, it opens the door to us attracting major events in other sports," he said.
Who: 53 of the world's best anglers
What: $1.2 million in prize money
Where: Grand Lake, with daily boat launches from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Weigh-in: BOK Center, opens at 3 p.m. and weigh-ins begin about 4:30 p.m.
The Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo: The industry's largest vendor showcase featuring 200 vendors such as Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Yamaha, Dick's Sporting Goods, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Shimano, Triton and more. Location: Tulsa Convention Center. Hours: Friday from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bass Bash Festival: Friday and Saturday on Third Street between Frisco and Denver avenues connecting the Tulsa Convention Center and the BOK Center. Live music, beverages, food trucks and more all under a heated tent. Free and open to all ages.
Original Print Headline: Bass classic boost to Tulsa area business
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Organizers prepare for the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo at the Tulsa Convention Center on Thursday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Kellie Snyder sets up a booth while taking a call as workers prepare for the upcoming Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo at the Tulsa Convention Center on Thursday. Three of her brothers are competing for the title this year and one, Chris Lane, won last year. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World