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USBC Open Championships Tournament Brings $75 Million to the Local Community

Scott Willis/WAER News

The 48 custom lanes have been dismantled and the Oncenter is definitely much quieter after the U.S. Bowling Congress packed up and left town last week.

Tourism officials and downtown restaurants are looking back fondly at the 107 days the Open Championships tournament was underway. 

According to Visit Syracuse President and CEO Danny Liedka, the impact was overwhelmingly positive.  He says it justifies the investment in the former Hotel Syracuse near the convention center.

“It shows that we can host large scale events in our downtown,” Liedka said. “This gives us great credibility and the ability to go after large groups that have not been here because we have not had a hotel downtown.”

USBC officials are expressing their gratitude to the city, county, and region for welcoming and hosting the bowlers from late March into early July.  Open Championships tournament director Duane Hagen says bowling is almost secondary to getting out and about.

“When you ask them why they come to bowl a tournament it’s not to knock over pins, it’s to see a new city, spend time with their friends in the new city,” Hagen said. “That’s definitely the draw of our event to most of our players.”

He says some ventured out to neighboring counties or even a bit farther out to the Finger Lakes, Cooperstown, and Niagara Falls.  But most stayed downtown, eating and drinking at any number of restaurants and bars.  General Manager of Evergreen in Hanover Square Chris Spencer was glad some bowlers apparently found a favorite spot.

“There was a group that came in multiple times,” Spencer said. “I know new have good relationships with a bunch of other businesses around town. We actually got a lot of referrals from the bowlers coming into other businesses and then coming to us which is great for the community.”

Hagen with the USBC says the length of the tournament means the organization and its bowlers build a relationship with the host community.

“It’s part of the package that we sell,” Hagen said. “We are going to bring an economic impact. We are going to involve ourselves in your community. We are going to have your community involve yourself in us. So that when we both leave we have memories.  The bowlers have memories of Syracuse. Syracuse has memories of the event being here.”

On top of these memories, perhaps the USBC Open Championship will bring a fresh perspective among those who live here.  Danny Liedka with Visit Syracuse says Onondaga County residents are among the biggest critics of their town. 

“When somebody from another community comes in and sees all that Syracuse and Onondaga County has to offer and they take advantage of it, it sends a great message,” Liedka said. “It’s a great tool for us when we are recruiting new business. That really helps us turn the tide in a world that is so driven by consumer opinion. To have that person coming from afar and give us that positive review is really what we need to push this area forward.”

He says the county spent about three million dollars to bring the USBC to town.  In return, they may have hit the expected local impact of 75 million dollars and pushed Syracuse from last place in hotel occupancy rates to the top of the pack across upstate. 

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at