Economic Impact of State Wrestling Amid Pandemic

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The State High School Wrestling Tournament is taking place this week at Wells Fargo Arena. This year, only a fraction of the normal massive crowds will be able to watch the matches in person. 

“In a normal year our full capacity for state wrestling is about 12,000,” Chris Connolly, general manager of the Iowa Events Center, said. “This year because of COVID and the pandemic, to keep people safe and spread out our capacity is a little over 5,000 per session. So that’s a little bit different, but we feel like we can keep people safe and spread them out.”

Because there are fewer seats available, there will be fewer visitors to Des Moines. Catch Des Moines President and CEO Greg Edwards said the economic impact will be down compared to years past, but they still expect to bring in $1.5 million this week.

“People in this state love wrestling,” Edwards said. “The hotels downtown are telling us they’re seeing some good occupancy levels over the next few days, probably not nearly what they normally are in a normal year but it’s very welcomed at this time.”

Masks are required in Wells Fargo Arena, tickets are sold in pods, and you must purchase those tickets online.

Connolly said Wednesday’s team duals was the test run to see how seating went. As the individual brackets begin, event staff are asking people to pay attention to what seat they purchased and sit there. That’s how they’re going to keep people spread out.

“The big thing is the interest is there and it’ll always be there and exciting for these kids that are wrestling for state championships,” Connolly said. “So you’ll have less people in the building, but I don’t think it’s dampened the enthusiasm at all.”

Catch Des Moines hopes that enthusiasm continues for girls and boys state basketball, as well as other events in the near future.

“So this really does help stir a little bit of excitement that ‘hey, maybe we’re getting closer to this thing being over and moving on,’” Edwards said. “Fingers are crossed that the pandemic numbers continue to go down. We’ve got a lot of great events scheduled for this summer. Fingers are still crossed that those are going to happen, so we’re just staying very optimistic.”

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