USA Racquetball is looking to get back into the swing of in-person events in a big way. On Monday, the NGB announced it will host its National Championship Festival from June 3-12 in St. Louis.
The festival will include 2021 USA Racquetball National Doubles Championships, National Singles Championships and National Juniors Championships. USA Racquetball says the June festivities will be its longest multievent competition.
The Arch City’s Jewish Community Center, Vetta Racquet Sports Concord and Vetta Racquet Sports West will host the action. Other partners include Missouri Racquetball Association, Missouri High School Racquetball Association, St. Louis Sports Commission and Explore St. Louis.
“To finally announce a national championships event hosted by us as a federation feels like the light at the end of a very dark tunnel filled with tournament cancellations and yearlong postponements,” says Connor Shane, USA Racquetball’s director of national events.
COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on all event organizations, particularly those affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Olympics were postponed to this summer and many sports federations were forced to lay off or furlough staff due to a lack of funds stemming from inactivity. Caught in the middle have been athletes who thrive on competition and value a chance to showcase their athletic abilities.
Without on-court tournaments to host, USA Racquetball has remained in touch with its members through online events like last summer’s virtual awards ceremony.
Racket sports, in general, have gained in popularity throughout the pandemic. Racquetball, though, is traditionally an indoor sport played in a closed environment, adding some additional logistical challenges to resuming.
St. Louis, a vibrant sports and event community, has made great strides in developing safety protocols to allow for the return of in-person events.
“St. Louis was the perfect choice for this event as one of the foundational cities for the sport of racquetball in the United States since the sport’s origination in the 1950s,” notes Shane. “Once we saw the dedication of the local organizing committee and the three fantastic host venues, the host city selection was an easy choice.”
USA Racquetball expects between 400 and 700 athletes, ranging from 10 to over 85 years old, to travel to the festival. There will be an athletes village, awards ceremony and hall of fame ceremony as the organization makes up for lost time.
The pairing of multiple national events into one grander event is likely to be a trend throughout sports tourism, as well as for conferences and events. Utilizing one destination is more cost-effective than hosting three separate tournaments in different cities at various times of year. Bringing so many people together should serve as a way to build momentum after a long moratorium.
“Choosing St. Louis as the host for our 2021 National Championships Festival brings a smile to my face and a ton of excitement to bring our community back together and get back on the courts,” adds Shane.