Houghton Lake High School's gymnasium has been a busy place the past few weeks and will be busy for several more days and nights hosting Michigan High School Athletic Association tournaments. So far, nine or 10 nights of tournament action have been held and the economic impact in the community is definitely a shot in the arm. Sue Milner, Houghton Lake High School Athletic Director and Assistant Principal, estimates 5,000 people have come to Houghton Lake so far for tournaments.
The boys' regional tournament which concluded Monday night drew 1,254 fans.
"The joint (gymnasium) was rocking and the decibel level was amazing," Milner said of the first regional game.
To host a tournament Milner said it takes 15 to 20 people per night and they are all volunteers. Only officials and the scorekeeper are paid and that is per MHSAA tournament rules. The Bobcat Boosters Club has volunteers manning the concession stand for each game and those profits help the Boosters meet their pledge to help fund Houghton Lake athletics.
Milner said she wished that when people traveled for tournaments that they would tell the businesses they frequent why they are there so that the businesses that benefit from the extra business would recognize the benefit to the community hosting the tournaments. She said many of Escanaba's fans spent the night at Houghton Lake when their team played in the Regionals Monday night, and if Escanaba would have won many of those fans would have spent another two nights.
Fans spend a lot of money when they travel for games, it is a huge economic impact in the host community. Those 5,000 fans who attended the games spent $25,000 just in tickets to get into the games. If everyone of them spent a buck at the concession stand that's $5,000. If they went out to eat in local restaurants that's another potential $50,000.
"It's great for the community," Milner said, and we agree. The school earns a portion of the gate receipts for hosting the tournament but the biggest beneficiary of all are local businesses.
Milner hasn't had much down time in the past month and neither has principal Jack Kramer. They don't get paid overtime for their work organizing and coordinating the tournaments. We're sure part of the compensation for all of the extra work comes from fans "rocking the joint," along with witnessing some great high school sports.
We congratulate Milner and Kramer and all of the volunteers for a job well done!