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State basketball tournaments a boost to local business

While the high school basketball state championships hosted in Casper are big deals for the athletes competing, they're also big deals for local business owners.

Cheerleaders from Cheyenne East High School cheer on their team during Friday's semifinal game against Campbell County. (Tommy Culkin, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — These past two weekends have been a big occasion for high school athletes across the state, as basketball teams from near and far attempted to cap off successful seasons with a state championship. But as big as it’s been for them, there’s one group for whom the tournaments might be an even bigger deal: local businesses.

When the state basketball tournaments come to Casper and the Ford Wyoming Center, they provide a surge to area hotels, restaurants and more.

“State wrestling, and then the state basketball tournaments after that, are definite peaks in terms of tourism spending throughout the year in the Casper area,” Visit Casper Business Development Manager Luke Gilliam said.

According to Gilliam, the wrestling state championship and the two basketball tournament weekends each individually bring in roughly $3 million to the area.

“From those tournaments, we’re looking at $9 million entering our community, which is really awesome,” he said.

For local hotels, the tournaments are some of the most important events of the year.

“The high school tournaments have the largest economic impact on Casper of any event hosted here,” said Renee Penton-Jones, general manager at Ramkota Hotel in Casper. “We have 230 rooms, which makes us a lot bigger than most of the other hotels in town. … And we’re completely full. So we’re definitely busy.

“We count on these events, and we hopefully show them how much we appreciate them being here.”

Gilliam added that the value in hosting the statewide competitions can’t be measured solely in how much is made during the weekend, since positive experiences in Casper make it more likely for people to return in the future.

In 2022, the 3A–4A state basketball tournament sold just over 5,000 tickets, breaking ticket sales records., and Gilliam said he expects similar numbers will be seen this year.

“We’ve done surveys so we know just how substantial these are,” Penton-Jones said. “They’re critical to Casper and our economy, and we bank on them and count on them.”