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Soccer tourney gives Sandoval economic lift

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Two teams square off on Tuesday during the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Tournament taking place in Bernalillo. It’s estimated the event will bring $4.7 million in direct spending to the area. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Two teams square off on Tuesday during the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Tournament taking place in Bernalillo. It’s estimated the event will bring $4.7 million in direct spending to the area. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

A number of local motels and businesses are enjoying a boost in business due to the 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Tournament in Bernalillo that began Monday and continues through Sunday.

The New Mexico Tourism Department, which helped sponsor the tourney, said the event was expected to draw about 20,000 visitors, including 5,300 athletes and coaches from 13 Western states, filling local motel rooms and bringing an estimated $4.7 million in direct spending to the greater Albuquerque metro area.

“This tournament is a perfect opportunity to promote tourism in New Mexico,” said Tourism Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson.

All but one of the six hotels in nearby Rio Rancho has had teams staying with them, said City of Rio Rancho spokesman Peter Wells.

“In June 2010, when the tournament was last here, the city experienced its largest lodger’s tax revenue month ever outside of October (for Balloon Fiesta),” he said.

The Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau worked with New Mexico Youth Soccer Association to help bring the event to the location again, beating out locations in Idaho and California, said ACVB spokeswoman Tania Armenta.

She said the tournament is one of the biggest sporting events to come to the metro area this year, responsible for around 14,000 hotel room-night bookings.

Rio Rancho’s Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with the tournament host to help promote the city to tournament participants, in an effort to optimize the economic impact, Wells said.

The program for the tournament included a Mayor’s Welcome Letter, an ad in the program, signage at the soccer complex, welcome packets for visiting teams and restaurant guides/coupons at hotels.

Employees at Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. and Howard Johnson Rio Rancho confirmed they have seen an increase in business last week.

“There’s absolutely been a noticeable uptick in business,” said Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz. He said groups of kids with soccer jerseys and their parents have been coming into the restaurant all week long to celebrate victories. A couple of large groups he’s seen have run up $500 tabs.

The event has been a shot in the arm for the Comfort Inn on High Resort Boulevard in Rio Rancho where business has been slow because of construction on nearby N.M. 528, said manager Aaron Bhakta. On Friday, he said the 57-room hotel has been sold out four days since the tournament started.

Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill said the majority of the economic impact would occur in the communities of Sandoval County.

“I happened to be in Flying Star in Bernalillo about noon (Tuesday) and saw several tables filled with teens in soccer uniforms,” he wrote in an email. “So, I know they are getting around the county.”

Jazmin Pillars, a manager at The Range Cafe in Bernalillo, confirmed Hill’s observation saying the restaurant has been much busier that usual. For example, they served 300 lunches on Friday whereas they usually do around 200.

“It definitely has made a difference,” Pillars said.

Super 8 Bernalillo, just west of Interstate 25 and U.S. 550, has rented out every one of its rooms during each night of the tournament, according to an employee on Friday.

That hadn’t been the case, though, at Motel 6 Bernalillo close by, an employee there said Friday, noting construction on I-25/U.S. 550 interchange continues to impact business. She said the motel has had three nights of renting out more than 40 of its 57 rooms.

Business has been “good, but not excellent and not busy for what we’re used to,” she said.

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