Weekend Wrap Up: Columbia Invitational
Another successful year of the Columbia Invitational Soccer Tournament wrapped up in and around Columbia yesterday. Thousands of soccer players and their families invaded the friendly confines of Howard County this past weekend for one of the premier soccer tournaments in the country put on by Maryland’s own Elite Tournaments. The tournament hosted 462 teams from 18 different states and Canada over the course of the four-day tournament, and OSM stopped by to check out the games and festivities.
Ashley and I attempted to navigate Columbia and stumbled upon a couple of the seven sites used by the Tournament. Luckily, we were able to find some of the bigger fields, so we were able to see a good variety of games. We first dropped by Howard Community College, and we got to watch the girls in action. Despite the high temperatures, there was a great turnout. When we got there on Sunday, the parking lot was packed and a lot of games were being played. We saw parents and families strewn across the grounds rooting their girls onto victory.
After visiting the girls, we found our way to Covenant Park where a lot of the older boys were playing. This soccer complex has 10 fields, and almost all of them were in use when we got there. There were some really competitive games taking place. Everyone was fighting for a spot in the finals on Monday. We even spotted some college coaches taking in the games and scouting. It’s estimated that around 275 college coaches visit the tournament over the four days.
We returned to Covenant Park on Monday morning to check out some of the final match-ups. We thought Sunday was a hot day and then Monday happened. With temperatures creeping towards 100 degrees, the fields were still packed with players and spectators. The overflow parking was filled, and everyone was trying to beat the heat. There are a few picnic pavilions situated around the grounds, and they were crammed with spectators and players. The lines for concessions were staggering, and the most popular item were snowballs (of which Ashley and I indulged!). We chatted with people who had come down from New Hampshire for the tournament and they remarked on the convenience of the tournament in relation to flying down, airports, hotels and rental cars.
The tournament generated nearly 6,200 hotel nights in Columbia and the surrounding area over the four days, with teams and their families traveling from all around the nation and Canada. This event has a great impact on the local economy. It brings in people from out of state that might not otherwise visit our area. These people stay in the local hotels, eat at area restaurants and shop at community malls and stores. Tournaments, like the Columbia Invitational, are the foundation of the sports event and travel industry. They’re also an integral part in showcasing the state of Maryland to the sports community and prove that we really are here to play.
P.S. For more photos, check out out Flickr stream in the upcoming days to see the amazing photos we took (thanks to Elite’s camera)!