Missoula to host 2016 USA Gymnastics Women’s Junior Olympic Western Championships
Missoula will be the site of the USA Gymnastics 2016 Women’s Junior Olympic Level 9 Western Championships, an event that is expected to bring in thousands of competitors, judges, staff members and spectators who could spend an estimated $2 million in the community during the week they are here.
It will also put the Garden City on the map for large scale gymnastics competitions in the future.
It is being hosted by Mismo Gymnastics of Missoula in partnership with UM, the Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District, Destination Missoula and the Missoula Sports Commission.
At a news conference at the DoubleTree Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, Mismo Gymnastics founder and CEO Kelley Durbin Williams said it will be the largest gymnastics event ever held in the state.
“For people who don’t know how big that is, there are only 10 levels in gymnastics,” she explained. “Ten is the highest, and 9 is the second highest. There is only two meets Easterns and Westerns and we are hosting Westerns. Twenty three states will be represented, so that’s the western half of the United States from Missouri to Texas to Alaska to Hawaii and everything in between. They will all be represented in our city.”
“The one thing I want to say is I believe the reason we were selected is actually twofold,” she said. “One is because of the support we’re getting from the TBID, the Sports Commission and UM. USA Gymnastics looks at that very highly.
“The second piece is we have run our own gymnastics meet for 13 years and three state championships, and those events are put on by our booster club and our staff and it is 95 percent volunteer. So this is exciting and we are thrilled to be doing this. And also a little scared. But we like trying new tricks.”
The hundreds of female athletes will range from age 8 to high school seniors and will compete in all the Olympic events against each other: vault, bars, beam and floor. Olympians that have performed at Western Championships,” Durbin Williams said. in the next few years.”
Mismo Gymastics submitted a bid of $80,000 to host the event, and part of that money came in the form of a grant from the TBID.
“We will front it, but we’re hoping at least to break even through entry fees,” Durbin Williams said. “There have been cities that have run it at a loss, but we can’t afford a loss, and we’ve assumed 100 percent of the liability. So that’s why it’s a little bit scary for us.”
The TBID is funded through an assessment of $2 per occupied room night from 15 participating hotels in the area, and the money goes strictly to marketing Missoula as a premier destination for tourism.
“Through the distribution of nearly $65,000 in Missoula TBID grants this past year, we have been able to support new and/or expand 12 sports and cultural events, such as Special Olympics, the Tour of Montana, Missoula Bike and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, to name a few,” said Missoula TBID sales manager Mary Holmes.
“For the second year in a row, we have successfully bid on and been awarded numerous Montana High School Association events. We are excited to share how these events help keep our economy vibrant and alive.”
When asked why she thought Missoula won the bid, Durbin Williams responded “because we’re awesome.”
“Missoula really is a unique community and we’re really networked,” she explained. “We had a letter of support from Destination Misssoula and Mayor (John) Engen, and from Linda McCarthy from the Missoula Downtown Association,” she added. “We showed how passionate we are about kids. This is a very kid friendly city, and I think that rang through in our 17 page bid. It took a year to do.
“I really think we’re warm and inviting. I think we’re very authentic and I fully intend to take very good care of these athletes with a lot of help from volunteers, but also the local businesses, all the hotels, everybody. It’s going to take our whole community to rally behind these amazing athletes.”