Come this weekend, Juneau’s hotels will be brimming with hoops fans from all around Southeast Alaska. Restaurants and grocery stores around town will feel the impact of having anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors in town. So it is every year during the Gold Medal Invitational Basketball Tournament.
“Those who come really are here to shop, too,” said Lions Club president and Gold Medal organizer Ted Burke. “They watch the games that they came to watch and when they aren’t watching they are shopping; they load up their cars to go home”
Hotels, motels, restaurants, taxis and rental cars are some of the most heavily impacted businesses, according to Juneau Economic Development Council Director Brian Holst.
“The economic impact of Gold Medal basketball tournament is felt in many areas of business activity,” Holst wrote in an email to the Empire. In a rough estimate, based on equally rough attendance numbers, which are difficult to track, Holst said the tournament’s “minimum direct economic impact on Juneau is about $500,000.”
Though that estimate may be rough, Juneau hotel workers can certainly corroborate that Gold Medal creates a bump in winter business.
“We are pretty full during Gold Medal, and right after Gold Medal is folk fest,” said Francine Brown, assistant manager at the Driftwood Hotel.
The Driftwood is one of the more popular hotels for Gold Medal participants and viewers because it is close to Juneau-Douglas High School, the tournament venue.
The hotel is nearly full already, and by the end of the week, Brown estimates that the remaining rooms will be booked, filled almost entirely by tournament goers.
The Breakwater Inn, too, will likely fill before the tournament, according to an employee who said the hotel also sees an increase in restaurant traffic during Gold Medal.
But hotels are far from the only businesses that experience a boost when Gold Medal rolls around. Before the tournament crowd ever arrives in Juneau, the ferry system and Southeast Alaska airline companies notice a swell in traffic.
“There is an uptick in ridership, which is good for the Alaska Marine Highway because more riders generate more revenue for the ferry system,” said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Though most people involved in the tournament will travel to Juneau via ferry, Alaska Seaplanes General Manager Carl Ramseth notices a similar “uptick” in demand. This winter has been busier for Alaska Seaplanes than winters past due to the more mild weather, which is favorable for flying, and the reduced ferry schedule, according to Ramseth.
However, the company is still offering special fares for Gold Medal flyers, in part “to try and help their money go further when they come to town,” Ramseth said. “We’re thankful for events like Gold Medal, for the economic impact on Juneau but also because they help families and communities to come together.”