County tourism takes hit with sports in limbo


Things remain in limbo as people try to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The Indiana High School Athletic Association has already canceled the boys basketball tournament, and has postponed spring sports.

Yet, it’s not just the absence of high school sports that is leaving a void in Dubois County. The absence of other sports is affecting it, too.

Dubois County Tourism Commission Executive Director Kevin Manley told The Herald on March 20 that the Ferdinand Color Run and Huntingburg Youth Triathlon have been canceled. He also acknowledged plummeting occupancy rates at local hotels.

He won’t have the revenue report for March until the end of April, but local cancellations affect those occupancy rates. Hoopin’ It Up, which was scheduled for March 14-15 in Jasper, has also been canceled. The event was set to feature a basketball tournament of grade school teams, but became yet another casualty of the outbreak.

“That’s a direct reflection on our economic impact because we have a lot of out-of-town teams that come in for that event, and they stay in our hotels and go to our restaurants,” Manley said. “But since everything has been closed, all those events have been canceled.”

He said the baseball and softball tournaments scheduled for the summer are still on, but there's a possibility they might get canceled. Manley knows the events won’t happen if restrictions stay in place.

Mike Uebelhor, however, remains optimistic in this time of uncertainty.

The co-owner and managing partner of the Dubois County Bombers does not know the fate of his team’s 2020 season. The Bombers are currently scheduled to open the season May 29 on the road against the Paducah (Ky.) Chiefs. Uebelhor said he should hear from the Ohio Valley League in mid-April if the season will carry on as is, or if it will have a shortened season or no season at all. The Bombers would have to know something by then in order to contact the host families to get them set up for the incoming players. The players themselves would have to get reimbursed their $600 player fee if the season is canceled.

He said the Bombers are currently preparing, though, as if all systems are go.

The Bombers are another organization that would suffer from a tourism and economic standpoint if COVID-19 leaves an impact on the season. Uebelhor said the Bombers averaged a gate of 998 fans per game last season, and drew just under 2,300 people on the Fourth of July last year. He also elaborated on the revenue the team generates from its corporate sponsors.

“Our intent is, if the season is canceled, we will go back to those advertisers and offer either a rebate for their advertising, or carry over for next season,” Uebelhor said. “We haven’t addressed that because we don’t know the direction of the league at this point in time.”

He noted that players come in from all over the country, and that their following is not just local, but is also extended to mid-America. Things would carry on, though, if there’s no season.

“It would hurt, but it would not cripple us,” he said. “We would just regear and start all over for the 2021 season.”

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