This will mark the 25th year for the Georgia High School Association State Cheerleading Championships, and once again it’s going to be a huge event this week for host city Columbus.
“It’s going to be up there because of the amount of teams and the spectators that they bring with them, which makes it so big,” David Boyd, with the Columbus Sports Council, said Tuesday. “The state high school tournaments do real well because they bring so many people. It’s like four people to every participant. I know state softball was way up there as well.”
The potential numbers for the competition on Friday and Saturday are major, with some participants expected to arrive in town Thursday. The overall economic impact — spending throughout the city — will come close to $2 million. There will be 3,600 cheerleaders taking part in the event, with more than 19,000 spectators along for the ride to watch how their favorite team, student or family member is doing in the very physical competition.
“We’ve already got people here now waiting in line to get ($12 general admission) tickets,” Boyd said. “They want to be the first ones to get their tickets and get in.”
Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Wednesday that the city’s hotels are nearing capacity and that his staff is monitoring lodging availability. Aside from the cheerleading gathering, the annual Auburn-Georgia football clash will take place Saturday afternoon in nearby Auburn, Ala., which means some fans will likely stay overnight in area hotels rather than make drives home after the big game.
“We hope to maximize everything available before the end of the week,” Bowden said.
The Greater Columbus Fair also starts Thursday and continues through Nov. 19, which will help make the Columbus Civic Center and adjoining South Commons area a beehive of humanity for a few days. The first session of the cheerleading starts at 8 a.m. Friday, with the final state title sessions beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.
As for parking to handle the crowds, Boyd said organizers have been working on plans to get everyone in and out of the large venue each day, to include the team buses for the cheerleading competitors.
Columbus has hosted the Georgia High School Association State Cheerleading Championships for 18 of the 25 years that they have taken place since starting in 1992. The event has grown from 32 teams to more than 200 teams taking part in region, sectional and state competitions. Nearly 130 teams will be competing for state titles.
Bowden said the cheerleading championships are the final major event for the city this calendar year. Tourism and visitation are major revenue generators for the city. In fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, Columbus attracted 1.9 million visitors for an overall economic impact of $346 million.
The sector contributed to 4,300 jobs locally with a total payroll of about $119 million. It also generated $38 million in sales and lodging tax revenue, which led to $527 in tax savings per household, Bowden said. For every dollar spent marketing the city, the return on investment was $22.84.
Boyd noted it will take more than 80 volunteers and 50 officials to pull off the cheerleading bonanza. City departments and organizations involved in the process include the Columbus Sports Council, the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, Columbus Parks and Recreation and, of course, the Columbus Civic Center.