A strong partnership between Warren County and the Cincinnati Ultimate Players Association has made southwest Ohio a worldwide destination for ultimate frisbee twice in four years, stimulating the economy and growing the game of ultimate frisbee in the region.
This July will mark the second time in a row Warren County has hosted the World Ultimate Club Championships, ultimate frisbee’s largest and most prestigious amateur tournament in the world which occurs every four years.
This year’s tournament will see 128 qualified teams from 30 countries descend in and around Lebanon from July 23-30.
The county’s first time hosting the WUCC in 2018 was an all-around success, according to Ben Huffman, the director of sports enterprises for Warren County. But, the county never expected to host the tournament again — at least not this soon.
“This event is kind of like the Olympics, in that it moves around and the city that hosts it really never gets it back,” Huffman said. In 2018, Warren County was chosen over other finalist bidders Amsterdam, Netherlands and Versailles, France.
This year, the WUCC was originally scheduled to take place in London, but complications forced the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) to look for a different venue. After 2018′s success, Warren County was at the top of the list of alternate hosts.
Essentially, Huffman said, the plan is to run the same tournament again, just four years later.
“Same people, same place, same field, same everything,” Huffman said. “We’ll get the event off the ground again. We’re really blessed to have it back here this summer.”
Liz Anderson, the director of communications for this year’s WUCC and the director of operations for Cincinnati Ultimate, said Cincinnati Ultimate is providing the bulk of volunteers and submitted the actual bid to bring the tournament to Warren County.
Huffman said Warren County and Cincinnati Ultimate have a long history of hosting ultimate tournaments together.
The magnitude of those tournaments have grown from highschool championships, to hosting the college nationals — an ESPN-aired ultimate frisbee showcase — which eventually secured a partnership with USA ultimate, the national governing body of ultimate frisbee.
Those partnerships, paired with America’s usual dominance in the sport and the WFDF’s desire to bring the WUCC to the States, were what originally made southwest Ohio a sort of hotspot for high-level, organized ultimate in 2018.
Huffman is expecting similar economic results to the last time the WUCC came to town.
“We had 4,000 people here for about 12 days, which generated over 10 million dollars of spending in our community, and upwards of 15,000 hotel room nights. It’s one of the largest events we’ve ever worked on.”
The Western and Southern Open annual tennis tournament hosted in Mason is the biggest professional sporting event in the county, but for amateur sports, “... this is by far the biggest event we’ve ever hosted,” Huffman said.
Additionally, work from Cincinnati Ultimate has helped grow interest in the sport in southwest Ohio.
“The growth in our area has been really strong, too,” Huffman said. “The Cincinnati Ultimate folks have done a good job at the grassroots level by getting kids to play.”
Anderson said that while the biggest ultimate communities tend to be on the west coast, southwest Ohio is one of the largest communities apart from that cluster and that participation is growing once again post-COVID.
“Cincinnati, in particular, of the surrounding many states, has the most thriving community,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of adult leagues, we have a pretty thorough high school program with a lot of schools in the area.”
As for the tournament, Anderson said she’s excited for the atmosphere.
“Anyone who’s ever worked a tournament like this just remembers how fun and happy everybody is,” Anderson said. “Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun and I’m just really looking forward to being there all week and being around the players.”
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