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Bass tournament could generate millions in tourism revenue

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WADDINGTON — The committee organizing events around the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament expects the event this year could have an economic impact on the St. Lawrence River Valley of $1.5 million to $2 million.

“This tournament could be the greatest tourism-generating event our area has ever seen,” said event coordinator Deanna Shampine. “It has the potential to draw thousands of tourists to St. Lawrence County.”

The Bassmaster Elite Series gathers the world’s 100 best professional anglers to compete in eight tournaments in different locales throughout the year. The Bassmaster Elite Series St. Lawrence River Showdown will be Aug. 8 to 11.

The event will stretch through all public fishing areas, including rivers, creeks and canals connecting to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The tournament will go as far east as Eisenhower Lock, Massena.

Most anglers most likely will stay within 20 minutes of the launch point at Waddington’s Whittaker Park, Ms. Shampine said.

With a month between the previous tournament and three days of practice time, many anglers, their families, television crews and Bassmaster staff could stay in the area before and after the tournament, Ms. Shampine said. Tournament host cities, villages and towns are required to have a festival leading up to the event, which also could generate revenue, she said.

Committee members said events could be held in conjunction with the tournament in Massena, Ogdensburg and areas in between to create more revenue.

“Make no mistake, we need the support of all the business in the area, Ogdensburg and Massena in particular, because they have to go through there to get here,” said Donald R. Meissner, committee member and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce FISHCAP coordinator.

The surrounding municipalities already have pledged their support, Mr. Meissner said. The committee is discussing how to get other towns and villages involved.

“I think part of the advantage that we have is being able to draw for Canada as well,” said Michael Mulone, Bassmaster’s director of events and tourism partnerships.

Committee members are exploring whether a U.S. customs checkpoint for Canadian boaters can be set up, Ms. Shampine said.

“The $2 million figure doesn’t say anything about the media component,” Mr. Mulone said. “Media outlets equate into advertising revenue. The event can serve as a calling card for people to learn about and seek out this destination.”

Committee members hope to raise at least $80,000 to hold the tournament, with a goal of $100,000.

The cost will cover the $60,000 host fee, which the village of Waddington is contracted to pay, and other expenses, Ms. Shampine said.

Most of that money will be generated through private and business donations and fundraisers because many of the local sponsors cannot compete with big-name sponsors, Ms. Shampine said.

“We do this right, and it’s only the beginning because other organizations will follow.”

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