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Bass tournament could generate millions in tourism revenue

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WADDINGTON – The committee organizing events around the Bassmasters Elite tournament says the event could have an economic impact on the St. Lawrence River Valley of $1.5 million to $2 million.

“This tournament could be the greatest tourism-generating event our area has ever seen,” event coordinator Deanna Shampine said Thursday. “It has the potential to draw thousands of tourists to St. Lawrence County.”

The Bassmaster Elite Series gathers the world’s 100 best professional anglers to compete in eight tournaments in different locales throughout the year. The Bassmasters Elite Series St. Lawrence River Showdown will be Aug. 8 to 11.

The event will stretch through all public fishing areas, including rivers, creeks and canals connecting to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The tournament will go as far east as Eisenhower Lock, Massena.

Most anglers will most likely stay within 20 minutes of the launch point at Waddington’s Whittaker Park, Ms. Shampine said.

With a month between the previous tournament and three days of practice time, many anglers, their familes, television crews and Bassmasters staff could stay in the area before and after the tournament, Ms. Shampine said. Tournament host cities, villages and towns are required to have a festival leading up to the event, which could also generate revenue, she said.

Committee members said events could be held in conjunction with the tournament in Massena, Ogdensburg and areas in between to generate more revenue.

“Make no mistake, we need the support of all the business in the area, Ogdensburg and Massena in particular, because they have to go through there to get here,” committee member and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce FishCap Coordinator Donald R. Meissner said.

The surrounding municipalities have already pledged their support, Mr. Meissner said. The committee is discussing how to get other towns and villages involved.

“I think part of the advantage that we have being able to draw for Canada as well,” Director of Events and Tourism Partnerships for Bassmster Michael Mulone said.

The committee is “looking into” installing a U.S. Customs checkpoint for Canadian boaters, Ms. Shampine said.

“The $2 million figure doesn’t say anything about the media component,” said Mr. Mulone. “Media outlets equate into advertising revenue. The event can serve as a calling card for people to learn about and seek out this destination. It’s just like any other televised sporting event — golf or even the Olympics. It would usually cost thousands of dollars to have that kind of national platform.”

The committee hopes to raise at least $80,000 to hold the tournament, with a goal of $100,000. The cost will cover the $60,000 host fee, which the village of Waddington is contracted to pay, and other various expenses, Ms. Shampine said.

Most of that money will be generated through private and business donations and fundraisers, as many of the local sponsors cannot compete with big-name Bassmasters sponsors including Toyota Trucks, Bass Pro Shops, and Carhartt, Ms. Shampine said.

“The biggest thing is that this is going to depend on the excitement and cooperation of both residents and business leaders from our different communities to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and turn into something that will just stand as the beginning of a lot of other things that can happen in the future,” said Mr. Meissner.

“We do this right, and it’s only the beginning because other organizations will follow.”

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