High school championships bring millions to Madison

Downtown businesses see significant revenue boost over the month of March
High school championships bring millions to Madison

On the weekend of high school wrestling championships, the Nitty Gritty is the closest place to get inside and grab a burger.

The restaurant’s owner, Lee Pier, said this is just the beginning of a big month of profits.

“Brings March Madness to the Madison area,” Pier said.

Pier said the Saturday of the WIAA wrestling tournament would not be nearly as busy without the thousands of athletes and fans who swarm the city.

“I think the community rises up and puts on a good show for the citizens around the state of Wisconsin,” Pier said.

Jamie Patrick with the Madison Area Sports Commission said state wrestling brings more than $5 million to the area. In all, during WIAA championships in March alone, visitors spend about $15 million in Madison and surrounding businesses.

“It’s good for our county, it’s good for the city, and it’s really just fun to be a part of. It’s cheap entertainment. It’s fun entertainment. It’s family-oriented,” Patrick said. “And you know, you could be 90 years old and remember high school like it was yesterday, and so, you still cling to that excitement and you want to go support it.”

Last year, the WIAA girls basketball tournament was moved to Green Bay, taking about $3 million in revenue with it.

“We were certainly disappointed that the girls left. We understood sort of the reasons that it happened, but it does put a void in our calendar because the girls are an important tournament, and it’s a fun tournament too, and it’s a great tradition,” Patrick said.

Patrick doesn’t anticipate any of the other 15 WIAA championships Madison hosts to leave the city, but said the commission is stepping up to offer even better customer service to those visiting for the games.

Patrick added when and if other championships are moved elsewhere across the state, the city looks for other events to replace them. However, Patrick said it is difficult to find a comparable event.

“With the tradition and the history we have, people have it on their calendars to come for the WIAA,” Patrick said. “So it’s really hard to replace that tangibly or intangibly, but you can look at other ways to sort of supplement it.”

For more information on the WIAA championships coming to Madison, visit WIAAMadison.com.