Salem economy hit by canceled tournaments, sporting events

Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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Annual sports tournaments typically provide a boom for Salem businesses, especially hotels and restaurants.

But with COVID-19 wiping out events like high school and college championships, as well as a visit from the Olympic softball team, that lost revenue can't be replaced.

"From the meals tax to lodging tax to gas tax, they come in here, spend all that money and then they leave and go home, but their money stays here," said John Shaner, the city's Parks and Recreation director. "It's why sports marketing is so important in this region, and why we do it is to help our budgets in each locality."

The 40th annual Chance Crawford Benefit Softball Tournament was slated to take place from Friday to Sunday throughout the Roanoke Valley. Before it was canceled, Shaner said 143 teams had already signed up to participate and that the final count would have likely been closer to 200.

The city has already lost an estimated 6,000-10,000 hotel room nights due to canceled events, Shaner said.

The question that remains is not if the sports will return, but if the people will.

"What scares me the most is, are people going to be ready to start traveling?" said Shaner. "We might be open and we might be ready to host all these events, but I think they're going to be smaller than what they would have been because there are going to be a lot of parents and families that are still a little nervous about getting back out and traveling."

Shaner said his staff is currently tasked with getting the city's facilities up to the now-higher standard. That means more hand sanitizer stations and new restroom cleaning policies will be in place when the games return.

"Those are things we're working on now to be out in front so, when we do open up, the public feels comfortable to come to us," he said. "I think that's going to be the new norm. How can we make sure we're protecting our patrons and people coming in to the level they want to be at to feel safe to come to us?"

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