More than 60,000 people visited DuPage County during the last four years for sporting events, including bowling tournaments and weightlifting competitions. They spent an estimated $12.5 million while they were here.
Now, the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking to build on those numbers by creating a sports commission.
The DuPage Sports Commission will be responsible for recruiting, retaining and facilitating sporting events for the county. It will operate as a department within the convention and visitors bureau.
"The DuPage CVB continues to develop new projects that are critical to the growth and prosperity of economic development through the visitor industry, while at the same time enhancing quality of life for the nearly 1 million residents of DuPage County," Larry Forssberg, chairman of the bureau's board of directors, said in a statement.
"Investing in sports tourism is an opportunity to further build upon the already significant legacy of sports in DuPage -- polo, PGA championship, Ryder Cup, USBC Bowling, Bulls/Sox Academy and more," Forssberg said.
Sports tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry, according to the bureau.
Beth Marchetti, executive director of the bureau, said youth and amateur sports could help fill DuPage hotels on the weekends.
"We have a lot of DuPage tournaments that are going on each and every weekend that sometimes our residents don't even know about," Marchetti said.
For example, hundreds of people visited Lombard in February when the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center hosted the 2019 USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships.
Meanwhile, a natatorium being built in Westmont will help DuPage become a destination for swim competitions.
Scheduled to open next year, the 60,000-square-foot aquatic center will include a nine-lane, 50-meter competition pool with spectator seating for 1,200 people.
Marchetti said the commission will help DuPage make the best use of its sports facilities.
"There's a growth in amateur sports," she said. "So there's a lot of opportunity. We are maximizing that opportunity and really getting out there with the DuPage brand and making sure people know that we're a great destination for sports."
The sports commission will officially launch May 10 during a special event at Cantigny Park.
Officials said the announcement of the commission comes during the launch of the DuPage Coalition for Tourism, which aims at educating leaders and residents about the importance of the hospitality industry.