Sunday, June 21, 2009

Economy dampens swim meet turnout

WAYNESBORO — Acknowledging the sluggish economy, Patti Minicucci said she and other parents she knows had to weigh their options before committing to attend this weekend's Commonwealth Games.

"You have to pick and choose now more than ever," said Minicucci, the mother of a swimmer from the Stafford Aquatic Team. "But this is one of our team's favorite events, and we just weren't going to miss it."

Although 534 swimmers signed up for Waynesboro's annual competitive swim meet, which draws participants from across the state, that number fell well short of last year's total of about 750, said Jeff Fife, executive director of the Waynesboro Family YMCA.

"I think this is largely based on the economy and with us having to compete with other meets that are going on around the same time," Fife said. "(Parents and the swimmers), who are not from near here, have to make the decision to attend or not."

Williamsburg resident Henry Wallace, whose two sons competed at the event for the Coast Guard Blue Dolphins swim team, said the economy has affected their travel plans. Wallace said the Commonwealth Games and a meet at Chapel Hill, N.C., are the only out-of-town events they attended this year.

"The economy is a consideration for us," he said. "It's a lot of work coming here, but this is one of two we choose."

A boost for Waynesboro

Despite the lower-than-normal turnout, organizers said they were very satisfied with the event and cited the financial boost the meet continues to bring to Waynesboro.

"The city is great for letting us use the pool, and it's a win-win situation because the city gets a financial windfall with all the people that come for this," Fife said. "You have people staying overnight in the hotels, eating in the restaurants and shopping at all of the shops."

Monique Douglas, whose daughter competes for the Stafford Aquatic Team, said when she wasn't watching the competition at War Memorial Pool in Ridgeview Park, she has enjoyed exploring the area and the various downtown businesses.

"The event is organized, well run and the location is just a perfect, mellow setting," she said. "The hotel is great, the shops are great and it's not the rat race that I'm normally used to."

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