In this 2012 file photo, thousands of fans and players take part in the annual Hike It and Spike It charity flag football tournament. This year’s tournament will be the largest ever with more than 4,000 players and an expected attendance of nearly 50,000. It is the city’s largest weekend event and has a direct economic impact of more than $3.5 million for Roswell. (Steve Notz Photo)
Organizers of the 19th annual Hike It and Spike It 4-on-4 charity flag football tournament are expecting even larger crowds this year, and an even greater multi-million dollar economic impact to Roswell.
There will be about 180 more participating players than last year’s 3,727 players, said local co-organizer Cla Avery.
“We’re right at 4,000 players,” Avery said Wednesday. “We’re 25 teams larger than last year.”
Roswell’s population of nearly 50,000 people is expected to swell as a result of the three-day Memorial Day weekend tournament, Friday through Monday, hosted by the Roswell Chamber of Commerce. About 42,000 people attended last year’s tournament over three days.
“It’s awesome,” Avery said. “It’s controlled mayhem.”
The annual Memorial Day weekend flag football tournament has become Roswell’s largest weekend event of the year. It is also the world’s largest 4-on-4 flag football tournament with the world’s largest pay-out.
The championship team in the Show Me The Money Men’s division will receive a $10,000 prize. Second- and third-place teams in the division will win $3,000 and $2,000 prizes, respectively.
“We’re just all very excited and looking for a great weekend,” Avery said. “It’s an alcohol-free, tobacco-free family-oriented event. It’s the Woodstock of flag football.”
The influx of people had an estimated direct economic impact to the Roswell area of $3.5 million last year, and an indirect economic impact of $13.1 million, according to the Roswell Chamber of Commerce.
Last year, when the tournament had 556 teams, the event generated an estimated $521,780 in lodging revenues in Roswell, and an estimated $954,112 in lodging revenues outside of Roswell, the chamber reported. It also generated an estimated $2,072,760 of on-site revenues for meals, fuel and souvenirs.
“It’s the biggest tourist event in Roswell,” said Mayor Dennis Kintigh. “There are more people that come for this than anything else in the year. It’s a huge deal. We’re going to have a mob of people. We want everyone to have a great time, a safe time, a fun time, so they come back next year and bring friends. We want more teams and more people.”
Twenty states were represented at last year’s tournament, when there were 556 teams. Players ranged in age from 4 to 57, and played simultaneously on 37 fields at the Cielo Grande Recreation Complex. Avery said there were 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles parked at the complex last year.
Finding a hotel or motel room in Roswell this weekend is virtually impossible, Avery said.
“The hotels have been booked since January or February,” Avery said. “There are no rooms, according to what I’ve been told by all the hotel and motel people. There just isn’t anything available. Artesia is completely booked. We’re sending people to Carlsbad, Ruidoso and Portales.”
According to last year’s records, 1,486 of the players were from Roswell, 1,565 players were from New Mexico towns other than Roswell, and 462 players were from Texas. In addition, the tournament has hundreds of volunteers.
The players, their friends and family, and spectators will bring with them their appetites and local restaurants and pubs are expecting a whirlwind of activity.
“They should do awesome,” Avery said. “Everybody should be slam-packed this weekend.”
Ramon Chavez, manager of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Roswell, said his restaurant is scheduling extra staffing in preparation of the football tournament and the New Mexico Military Institute’s 119th commencement ceremony on Saturday.
“We’re actually expecting a big crowd for the Hike It and Spike It and the NNMI graduation,” Chavez said. “It’s probably going to be as busy as Valentine’s Day, if not busier.”
The Roswell Museum and Art Center also expects to benefit from the influx of visitors.
“Often it does bring families in,” said museum registrar Kenna Arganbright.
Mike Acezedo, general manager of Farley’s Food Fun & Pub, said he expects to see a lot of football players and spectators seeking some cool drinks and food after the games.
“Hike It and Spike It is one of the busiest weekends in town,” Acezedo said. “Farley’s is the place to be to get out of the sun and enjoy some great food and good drinks. We’re expecting a big crowd. It’s one of the busiest weekends in the year. Any business is always good.”
James Martin, owner of Martin’s Jewelry & Gifts, said the flag football weekend presents more potential customers and more window-shopping at the city’s gift shops.
“We see a little bit more traffic, but they’re just out here cruising and looking,” Martin said. “It couldn’t hurt, but I don’t know how good it is. It can’t hurt anything.”
Jim Matteucci, chairman of the board of Bank of the Southwest and local co-organizer, said the event would not be possible without all the help it gets from the city of Roswell, including $20,000 of seed money from city lodgers’ tax proceeds.
“Just about every city department is involved in the event,” Matteucci said. “The Parks and Rec Department prepared the facility, including blading of roads, mowing of parking areas, erecting a fence for crowd and traffic control. The Sanitation Department will put seven roll-up dumpsters at the park. The Streets Department will be out there all weekend controlling the dust with their water truck. They put up all the street barricades and cones and traffic signs. The police department, fire department, state police will all be here in force this weekend. The event wouldn’t happen without the help from the city.”
Matteucci said preparations will include a temporary hospital at Cielo Grande erected by Eastern New Mexico Medical Center.
“On top of that, we have over 400 volunteers that give us their time to make this event not just any event, but an amazing event,” Matteucci said.
Kintigh said the annual tournament creates a much-needed boost in revenues to the city.
“The city really relies on gross receipt taxes,” Kintigh said. “This is a huge boost for the city. We want to encourage people to participate, come out and watch, and come out and cheer on your favorite team and spend money.”
Kintigh will kick off the tournament with a short address to the crowds at 8 a.m. Saturday at Cielo Grande.