Cross country championships turns Madison into sports tourism destination

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Thousands of tourists explored Madison and boosted business during the weekend of the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.

More than 2,700 athletes from all over the country competed in races at the Yahara Hills Golf Course on Saturday.

More than 2,700 athletes from all over the country competed in races at the Yahara Hills Golf Course on Saturday. Madison was chosen in a competitive bid to host this year’s championships, becoming the first city in Wisconsin to have the role in the event’s decades-long history.

Jamie Patrick, an event co-organizer, said that thousands more joined the athletes this weekend. He estimates the championships brought a total of about 7,000 tourists to Madison.

Patrick also estimates direct spending this weekend to exceed $970,000, boosting local restaurants, hotels and shops.

“That's absolutely our intention, to bring people here for sports tourism,” he said. “Not only do we want to have great sports here, but we also want to help our local community.”

With a stand on site, some restaurants like Ian’s Pizza operated in the closest reach of consumers.

“It’s great exposure for people to come see our tent. They can learn all about our locations,” Haley Burns, an employee with the pizza restaurant said.

Madison is also the host city for the CrossFit Games and IRONMAN Wisconsin. Patrick said next year, the Golden Age Games for veterans ages 55 and older will also take place in the state capital.

According to Patrick, who is also the vice president of the Madison Area Sports Commission, said that fitness is deeply rooted in Madison’s culture that being the host city for several high-volume events makes sense.