DUNBAR, W.Va. — A financial and showcase win is how Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango described the impact of the most recent athletic tournament at the Shawnee Sports Complex.

Around 4,500 athletes on 260 teams from 13 states competed in the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships over the past week at Shawnee and the Barboursville Soccer Complex, a tournament that officials have prepared around one year to host.

Salango told MetroNews the economic impact of the seven-day event is estimated between $20 and $24 million throughout the Kanawha Valley.

Ben Salango

“The economic impact is significant for our area,” he said. “That goes directly to businesses, that goes directly to workers and their families. So that news makes us feel very happy.

“What’s even better is we were able to put our best foot forward. West Virginia was showcased and people as far away as Maine came to West Virginia for the very first time. I think they left with a very good impression of our state. We heard nothing but good things from our visitors.”

Teams in the tournament traveled from a dozen states including Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Boys and girls teams from age groups 12 to 19 were crowned champions.

Salango said a number of teams from large cities were in awe of what West Virginia had to offer from the complex to the hospitality.

He said 41 hotels were sold out during the tournament that ran from June 28 to July 4, averaging 4,200 rooms per night.

According to Salango, restaurants from Barboursville to Charleston and everywhere in between have reported recorded sales in the past week.

“Restaurants throughout the valley were busy, many were staying open an hour or two past typical closing time,” Salango said.

“We received reports some restaurants ran out of food. I received reports that a number of restaurant sales were up anywhere from 25 to 35 percent.”

Shawnee, which opened one year ago this July, hosts the same tournament in 2020 along with the U.S Youth Soccer Presidents Cup Tournament.

Between hosting the tournaments next year, Shawnee has a full slate of events scheduled including EDP Fall Kickoff in September that features soccer academies across the country, Friends of Coal Cup in November, the National Quidditch Cup with 1,500 college athletes, and multiple more local baseball, softball, soccer, and football tournaments.

That is why Salango said citizens in the Kanawha Valley just got a taste this week of what the Shawnee Sports Complex can bring.

“This is going to be going on all the time, not a one and done,” he said.

Salango said that Shawnee has put in bids to host the U.S. Youth Soccer events past 2020 but would not be surprised if the venue did not receive it because the association may spread it around to other places.

He said he is not worried if that is the case with all the other events booked and dozens of local teams going in and out of the facility for practices.

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