TBAYS gives the region a kick: Impact from tournaments pushes $2 million

TRAVERSE CITY – Thomas Singer takes great pride in promoting "the simple game of soccer."

Yet, there is nothing "simple" about the economic impact that Singer and the Traverse Bay Area Youth Soccer (TBAYS) has on the Grand Traverse area.

"We estimate that between their two major tournaments held in Traverse City each year, they generate $1.75 million for the local economy," said Jack Schripsema, vice president of sales and marketing for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

He estimates the spring Cherry Capital Cup brings about $750,000 to the Traverse City area, while the bigger Autumn Classic tournament generates about $1 million, based on all area spending, including lodging, gas, dining, attractions, entertainment, etc.

TBAYS is a non-profit youth soccer organization that includes nearly 1,200 players from four to 18 years old.

They play in local leagues and on "select" teams that travel throughout the state and country seeking the highest level of competition.

This year marks the 20th year that TBAYS has held games at its home site on Keystone Road.

"Having our own site is vital to our success," said Singer, a Philadelphia native who serves as director of coaches and facilities for the group and is the prime organizer of the two big tournaments every year – the Cherry Capital Cup on Memorial Day weekend, which brings about 80 teams (2,800 people) to TC, and the Autumn Classic in September, which brings about 170 teams (6,000 people) to TC.

"Having been around many communities that don't have their own facilities, having a home of our own is important to the people and the players in our program," said Singer. "They take a lot of personal interest and pride in our fields at Keystone Road."

But for all the local players, coaches and referees taking part in TBAYS soccer, Singer felt the group flew under the radar of Traverse City citizens when it came to realizing what kind of economic impact the group generated.

"So we approached the CVB about two and a half years ago about helping us promote what we were doing."

Singer and Schripsema talked about various ways to market the two major tournaments to teams from the Midwest and Canada.

"Basically, we went to them because hotel rooms are at a premium in Traverse City and we needed help securing places for all of our visitors," said Singer. "They have helped link us not only to hotels and motels, but to restaurants and places to sightsee like the Sleeping Bear Dunes. They have been a tremendous help."

Schripsema said that the tournament package was an easy sell for two reasons.

"The first is that TBAYS has its own site and they've always done a good job running the tournament. They have a good reputation," he said. "Secondly, this is Traverse City. There are a lot of people who like spending the weekend here. It was just a good fit."

For his efforts in luring teams and visitors to the Traverse City area, Singer received the CVB's "Community Champion Award." It is given to individuals who are instrumental in bringing groups or association to town.

"It was enjoyable to get the award from the standpoint that TBAYS was recognized for something it has long done – bring people from out of town to the Traverse City area," said Singer. "There are so many people who work so hard in all of our TBAYS programs. TBAYS at its core still keeps a simple game simple."

TBAYS also operates the Just For Kicks indoor soccer facility. BN