Woodlands board says no to smaller soccer tournament

February 25, 2018 GMT

The Woodlands Township Board of Directors issued a red card to a bid by a local soccer promoter to reduce the number of teams at the multi-day Copa Rayados Internacional Soccer Tournament held in the township over Thanksgiving weekend.

In a unanimous vote during its Thursday night meeting, the board followed a recommendation by staff of the township’s Convention and Tourism Bureau not to reduce the number of teams in the popular international youth soccer tournament. Organizers asked to amend the contract between the tournament and township to drop the number of teams from 160 to 80.

Board of Directors Member Bruce Rieser said the tournament, which moved from Houston to The Woodlands in 2016 under a three-year contract, resulted in a revenue boost from sales tax and hotel occupancy tax collections. Teams from out of the area stay in town for several days. Reducing the number of teams would cut into revenue, he added.

“I think we should let the contract stand, enforce the contract,” Rieser said.

The tournament is hosted on soccer fields in the township. In exchange for bringing thousands of players, parents and coaches to The Woodlands- with opportunity to book rooms in local hotels, shop at area stores and eat in local restaurants – the township agreed to waive rental fees for the soccer fields over five days around Thanksgiving.

Township board Member John Anthony Brown, along with other board members, was also concerned about potential for revenue loss. Tournament organizer Scott Spencer was questioned about the request to limit the number of teams.

The tournament was very successful in 2016 and 2017, Spencer said, but explained that many teams didn’t stay in area hotels because they couldn’t afford the rates. Other teams, he said, were based in the Houston area and didn’t need hotels. One of the reasons Spencer said organizers want to reduce the number of teams is to increase competitiveness of the event.

He did say he understood the concerns that fewer teams could reduce the economic benefits. But, he said, he was hopeful if fewer number of teams came for the tournament, a higher percentage would actually stay locally because with a smaller event, more teams would be from out of state or international teams.

Nick Wolda, president of the township Convention and Tourism Bureau, also known as Visit The Woodlands Texas, said statistics gathered by the CVB staff showed tournament participants used 3,100 total hotel rooms on average in 2016 and 2017, but in 2016 only 483 of those rooms were in The Woodlands and in 2017 only 440 rooms were in The Woodlands.

“We would like to see (that number) grow,” Wolda said of this year’s tournament. “We feel like this is a great tournament.”

One board member, John McMullan, said he wasn’t bothered by reducing the number of teams-although he eventually voted against the reduction request.

Rieser said the CVB staff has been working with local hotels to offer reduced rates for rooms for the tournament to try to get more teams to stay in hotels in the township.

“We got a relatively low number of room nights the last two years,” Rieser said. “We’re putting a lot of effort into this.”

Township officials, after the board rejected the request to reduce the teams, said if the tournament organizers bring fewer than 160 teams to this year’s event, the original waiver of field use fees could be withdrawn and the tournament would owe the township thousands of dollars for field rentals.

The specific dates and schedule for the 2018 tournament have not been announced. For more information on the tournament, visit the website: http://www.coparayados.com/index.html.