WGI World Championships ‘wonderful opportunity’ to introduce tens of thousands to area



Some events don’t just light up a stage, they also ignite the region’s economy.

That’s the case with the WGI Sport of the Arts World Championships held throughout the region across two weekends that started Thursday.

While the color guard and percussion/winds championships put thousands of performers on display, they also put the Dayton-Cincinnati area on the map.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for folks who may not have been to Dayton before to be able to come here and see all of the great things that we have to see in our community,” said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is over 60,000 people over those two weekends that are experiencing Dayton and (for) many of them, it may be for the first time.”

The event generated a combined estimated direct spending economic impact of more than $18 million in 2023, according to the visitors bureau. Benefiting from those tens of thousands of visitors over those two weekends are area hotels, restaurants, gas stations, retail stores and more, Powell said.

“These are young people so they like to go out and do a little shopping in between their performances and we like it, too, when they spend their money in our community,” she said.

The spending gets spread out across the Dayton and Cincinnati area, as WGI rents more than 50 different facilities to allows teams to rehearse, said Bart Woodley, director of operations and sponsor relations.

”Every basketball club and sports facility is hosting our groups to have their rehearsals before their competitions,” Woodley said.

Woodley said the number of sites WGI has had to use has increased to five different venues on the first weekend “because the growth is ridiculous.”

The first installment, the Color Guard competition, take places between Thursday and Saturday at University of Dayton Arena, Dayton Convention Center, the Nutter Center at Wright State University, Cintas Center in Cincinnati and Truist Arena at Northern Kentucky University. The second installment, the Percussion/Winds competition, is scheduled for April 18 through April 21 at Hobart Arena in Troy for the second

“I don’t think anybody would have expected that it would ever get this large,” Woodley said.

Luke Tandy, who owns Skeleton Dust Records at 133 E. 3rd St., said his downtown Dayton business sees about a 20% uptick in foot traffic when the competition comes to town.

“It’s always welcome,” Tandy said. “As many things like this the city can have is always good for business.”

The event has been in the Dayton area for 37 of its 47 installments and is one of the top events in terms of attendance. Of the 60,000 people it draws, about 15,000 of them are the performers themselves, representing 577 wind, percussion, and color guard groups, including several local high schools, he said.

“It’s a lot of kids,” Woodley said. “It’s an absolutely huge event.”

It’s also Dayton’s largest annual convention, according to the Convention & Visitors Bureau. The second largest event in Montgomery County, in terms of estimated direct spending economic impact, would be the NCAA First Four Tournament, which generates around $5.9 million in estimated direct spending economic impact, with approximately 25,000 people in attendance, the bureau said.

More than 150,000 spectators enjoy the activities at WGI Regionals and World Championships annually, according to the visitors bureau.

Brent Flynn, WGI’s marketing manager, said the competition has essentially maintained its participation levels from year to year, “which is really good considering that your cost of travel and costs of participating in the activity continue to rise.”

A “substantial amount of growth” in the competition has come via its percussion and winds division, Woodley said.

“We’ve seen an increase this year of nearly 650 performers, which is about 8.8% growth in between the two divisions,” he said. “That’s an excellent thing to see, especially in one year.”

For a long time, WGI performers only hailed from within the United States, Woodley said. This year the competition is not only welcoming performers from 40 states, including Hawaii, but also three different countries: Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.

The organization’s championships have evolved from the VFW Color Guard to what it is now: “the sport of the arts,” Woodley said.

“It takes the athleticism of any Olympic event and combines it with the pageantry of a Broadway stage,” he said.

The nature of WGI performances have come a long way from the non-profit organization’s early days in the late 1970s, Woodley said.

“The evolution from where it started to now has just been breathtaking to see the creativity that these designers have,” he said. “What they’re asking the students to perform has continually just grown and grown and as more people are being exposed to different art forms, they start to bring in some of the gymnastic ideas or some ice skating ideas or ... they started to take from all other sports and art forms, and are creating productions that are just absolutely amazing.”

The organization made a commitment in 2023 to continue to stay in the area through at least 2031.

“It’s our largest event overall in terms of the fact that the numbers of people they bring in are here over two weekends,” Powell said. “That isn’t just Montgomery County, but it’s all of the surrounding counties, down into Northern Kentucky that are seeing the benefits of having this event here.”

It helps that transportation to and from the World Championships is convenient, as all venues are located within 90 minutes of three different airports: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Dayton International Airport and John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

That hasn’t stopped other cities from trying to get in on the action.

“The city of Orlando has tried to lure us down into the Mouse Country a little bit and we’ve also had the city of Indianapolis that was making bids for us and really the community and Dayton has just gone full all-in,” Woodley said.

Powell said Dayton has been able to keep WGI Championships in the community “because of the welcoming experience that they receive here.”

“I can’t say enough good things about UD Arena and all the other arenas that take such good care of this group when they’re here,” she said. “It really does make a difference in our hotels, the things that we do, the hospitality that we provide the community, that helps to ensure that this event stays in our community for years to come.”

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