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September 18, 2011
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Local businesses rolled out the welcome mat for the estimated 900 participants in the Virginia Fusion Ultimate Frisbee Tournament being held this weekend at the Smith River Sports Complex.

Some motels and restaurants put greetings on their business signs; some put materials in welcome bags to help guests find services and amenities in the area. All are hoping that the teams will enjoy their stay here and want to return.

At the Comfort Inn of Martinsville, team members reserved 61 of the more than 70 available rooms, said Scott Wilson, general manager.

"We have prepared really, really hard" to ensure the motel is ready for the guests, he said. "We made sure all rooms were ready, and we'll have two people working the front desks. We've also got menus from restaurants" to give to guests in the hopes that will "send them out into the community."

Also, the inn's marquee includes a welcome message for tournament participants.

Advance preparations were important because "we want them to come back," he said.

Billy Russo, director of operations at the sports complex, said 20 states are represented in the three team divisions at the tournament. There are eight elite club women's teams, eight regular club women's teams and 20 college women's teams taking part.

Teams have come from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and James Madison University, as well as Rutgers: the State University of New Jersey, Georgetown University and South Florida University, Russo said.

Besides the college teams, the Seattle (Wash.) Riot Ultimate Frisbee Team - which Russo called "one of the best teams" in the U.S. - also participated.

Other teams came from Pittsburgh, New York City, Baltimore and other areas, he said.

In all, 36 teams, with an average of 25 people per team, are in Martinsville and Henry County over the weekend for the tournament, Russo said. And, he said, that number "does not include parents, boyfriends or other family members."

"The two days of revenue is really good for this area," said Wilson. "I just moved here from Charlotte (N.C.), and anything I can do to help this community" he is willing to do.

Wilson and Russo both said that they have worked with Jennifer Doss, director of tourism with the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., to ensure businesses benefit as much from the tournament as possible.

Doss said she and others prepared 900 welcome bags that were distributed during tournament registration. The bags hold a community brochure with general information about the area and surrounding communities, a dining guide, information about upcoming events and coupons for some local businesses "to entice participants to come out and shop and dine," she said.

Although food will be available at the complex, Doss said "after the tournament or in between when they have a break, we're hoping they will explore our communities."

Local businesses decide whether to include information in the welcome bags, Doss said.

"We have a newsletter that goes out to every hotel, restaurant, gas station, spa" and other businesses in advance of community events, she said. The newsletter offers businesses the opportunity to participate and asks if they want to contribute anything to the welcome bags, Doss said.

"We welcome any businesses that want to participate in any of our programs," Doss said, adding that a USA Tournament is slated for later this fall, along with several other events.

"Any business that wants to partner and participate with us can do so by providing coupons or information about their business" that will be included in welcome bags at no cost to businesses, she said.

The Quality-Dutch Inn Martinsville had "about three teams (as guests) and we're happy to have them," said Tammy Bowles, director of sales and marketing. The majority are staying two nights and occupying about 30 rooms, she said.

The guests represent several areas, including New York, Charlottesville and Maryland, Bowles said. The hotel is prepared for the guests, and brought in additional staff in the food service area, she added.

"We have more people staffing the dining room ... to accommodate breakfast and dinner," Bowles said. While she anticipates guests "will be eating all over town, of course we hope that some will be eating here."

The hotel also includes a welcome to participants on its marquee, Bowles said. "We hope they continue to come back to the area."

The sports complex, she added, is a boon for businesses in Martinsville-Henry County.

"I praise it all the time," Bowles said. "It's wonderful, and they're just continuing to grow."

A few tournaments were held at the complex in its first year, she said, and "last year, they had a lot. This year, they're full. ... We're looking forward to it being a prosperous" addition to the area. "Everybody benefits."

Joann Green, manager of the Knights Inn - Martinsville, said that inn also boarded tournament guests.

Tournaments at the complex and other events elsewhere "are very good for business," Green said. She added that some participants in a fishing tournament at Smith Mountain Lake also had booked rooms there.

The added business "is really wonderful," Green said.

Restaurants had geared up to serve an influx of patrons, according to Virginia King, a spokesperson for Hugo's Quality Casual Dining in uptown Martinsville.

King said the business placed coupons in the welcome bags "to encourage the players to come to the restaurant." A temporary sign also was installed to help guide them to the eatery.

Once uptown, King said she hoped the visitors would explore shopping options there.

Rose Siler, manager of Captain Tom's Seafood, said she also is "certainly hoping for" increased business from tournament players, fans and families. "Any added business is always good," she said.

The seafood restaurant also included coupons in welcome bags, and "we're hoping to get some feedback," Siler said.

"We have a full staff" scheduled to work all weekend, she added.