Local competition helps drive Amarillo economy and tourism

By Sarah Seeley

Amarillo, Texas - The Amarillo area is expected to make $300 million this year on local tourism.

With the economic downturn, the Amarillo Convention and Visitor's Council is pushing for this year's numbers to at least stay flat.

"We attract people because of our western heritage, because of our sort of real Texas kind of feel, because of our value and our economy, [and] because of some of our very unique attractions," said Council Communications Director Eric Miller.

Attracted this week was the United States Trampoline and Tumbling Association's National finals.

Thirteen hundred athletes, their families, and coaches from all over the country traveled here for the five-day event.

Those visitors stayed in local hotels, shopped at local stores, and ate at local restaurants.

Miller says the money spent here is great for taxes but has an even more important impact on local people.

"That money goes into paychecks, the ticket takers and the movie theaters, the folks at the counters and the fast food restaurants, [and] the waiters and waitresses," said Miller.

The USTA's executive director says two years ago a bid was given to the Amarillo Civic Center because of low overhead costs and great local activities like "Texas" at Palo Duro Canyon for the gymnasts and their families.

"They had the dinner there and they took them up hiking and went horseback riding and some kids had never been on a horse so we had a ball," says Patti Ligenfelter.

She says the overall support by locals made the competition a success.

"We've had so much fun here and the people have been so friendly," said Ligenfelter.  "The people this civic center, the people that work here...they have probably been the nicest people."

Miller says this week's event will bring the Amarillo economy more than $900,000.

"That starts with motels and hotels and the restaurants but it also includes shopping and attractions and the movie theaters," said Miller.  "It really does spread out across Amarillo's economy."

The official numbers for how much money the visitors spent wont be in for weeks.

Other large events expected to make Amarillo a significant amount of money this summer are a Junior Livestock Show, a Jehovah's Witness conference, and the American Quarter Horse Association's Senior Select Show.