Local restaurants and shops did a brisk business as swimmers and divers and their fans converged on Crawfordsville for the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship.
The event drew its largest-ever attendance during the four days of competition, organizers said, with more than 2,700 spectators watching the action at the Crawfordsville Aquatics Center.
University of Indianapolis won its third straight men’s championship. Drury University captured the women’s title for a fourth year in a row.
Athletes and their families filled up downtown restaurants at lunchtime and some local eateries catered meals for teams. Eleven men’s squads and 10 women’s teams competed in this year’s event.
“I know if you were downtown at all from like that noon to 3 [p.m.] period, it seemed like there were a lot of out-of-state cars lining the streets, so they stayed very busy,” said Heather Shirk, executive director of the Montgomery County Visitors Bureau.
The bureau partnered with The Barefoot Burger, Allen’s Country Kitchen, Arni’s, Applebees and Jimmy Johns to sponsor the event. The restaurants fed athletes, coaches and volunteers in the hospitality room. Hotel rooms were booked into the weekend.
The event has a measurable impact on the local economy, according to a study from the Center for Innovation, Business and Entrepreneurship at Wabash College.
Teams often spend more than $11,000 on lodging, food and other expenses during their stay. The championship is projected to bring in more than $1 million by 2022, according to the study.
The competition requires the largest number of volunteers and outside coordinators for a championship event, GLVC commissioner Jim Naumovich wrote in an email to Crawfordsville organizers.
“When we see the Mayor and his wife giving up a Saturday night to serve as backup timekeepers, when the Director of the Montgomery County Convention & Visitors Bureau enlists the help of her daughter, son, mother and father, and the AD, Aquatic Director, and his assistant at [Crawfordsville High School] are on site for the duration of the event, we have a true appreciation for the sense of pride you all take hosting this event,” Naumovich wrote.
The conference will finalize the sites for next year’s championship events this spring.
“It takes our whole community to make this event a success, so they wouldn’t want to come back if we weren’t assisting in that way,” Shirk said.