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CrossFit Games give Dane County businesses an economic boost

MADISON (WKOW) — More than 70,000 people are expected to descend on Dane County this weekend for the annual Reebok CrossFit Games. They’ll be cheering on about 500 athletes from more than 100 different countries.

The economic boost the games have brought to the area the last few years also has businesses cheering.

“Everything about the games is positive for the Madison economy,” said Downtown Madison, Inc. president Jason Ilstrup.

The organization represents the interests of businesses in the downtown area, and Ilstrup said the amount of people doesn’t overwhelmed their members.

“They love the fact that the games are here,” he said. “It does absolutely provide a really nice amount of new people.”

Ilstrup said they track the amount of pedestrian traffic before and during the games, and they do see an uptick.

“They love to see people coming into the shops, they love to see people coming into the restaurants,” he said.

This is the third year the event has been held in Madison, and there’s still two to go. The economic impact the past two years has hovered around $12 million annually for the entire county.

Tourism officials said most of the money is spent on food, since many people can stay for free with friends and relatives. But many athletes and CrossFit Games officials end up staying in hotels.

AC Hotel in downtown Madison has been booked for months.

“We are currently all full,” said regional director of field sales Therese Wensmann. “We book a year in advance. As soon as this event completes at the end of next week, we will book out a year in advance.”

The Reebok team stays at the AC Hotel, so Wensmann said the staff that’s usually bringing its ‘A’ game is going to be bringing just a little more.

“The vibe here will be extremely increased,” she said. “Everybody will be pumped up and ready to welcome all the athletes.”

While much of the impact is seen within the county, Ilstrup said being on the world stage also boosts tourism.

“Hundreds of thousands of people seeing Madison and the beauty that it has: maybe this is a place that they want to live,” he said. “It says that Madison is a city that’s growing, a city on the rise, and a city people want to live in.”

Sara Maslar-Donar

Reporter, WKOW 27 News

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