TAMPA — Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins and his staff hosted a group from the national YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) committee back in January while the exploratory team was on the hunt for a location to accommodate the 2014 national championships.
And they flipped for Tampa.
The Y-USA announced last week that Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has been selected to co-host the 2014 championships next June.
"Our community has a strong affinity for staging premier youth and amateur gymnastics events," Higgins said. "To be able to host a special event of this caliber is going to continue to enhance our gymnastics tradition."
The three-day competition will take place June 3-5 at the Tampa Convention Center. There will also be an Olympic-style opening ceremony June 2 at an undetermined site.
"It's a huge honor and very exciting news to be chosen as the host for this amazing event," said Tom Looby, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa YMCA. "We look forward to working with the Sarasota Y, Y-USA, Tampa Bay & Co. and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to plan and host such a spectacular event with promising outcomes to the greater Tampa Bay area."
Higgins felt there was "a combination of factors" that led to the Y-USA selecting Tampa as the host site for just the third time. The city also hosted the national championships in 1990 and 1993 and it's the first time the event has returned to the Sunshine State in 21 years.
"I think it had to do with the hospitality they experienced while on their trip and the way the community embraced them and the sport of gymnastics," he said. "And then you have the Tampa Convention Center and the strong reputation of the local YMCAs. It was a blend of factors and we are excited to be a part of it."
The event is expected to draw about 2,000 gymnasts and their families to the Tampa Bay area and the economic impact projects out at about $4.5 million.
Higgins said that with local restaurants typically lagging in the summer, this is a perfect time to bring in additional revenue.
"The timing of it couldn't be better," he said. "This will bring an infusion right at the time when it's needed most."
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]