The thousands of firefighters, police officers, friends and family members expected to attend the 2015 World Police & Fire Games could have a $50 million impact on the Fairfax County economy, says Barry Biggar, president and CEO of Visit Fairfax.
The World Police & Fire Games start Friday and will run until July 5 at 53 locations, mostly in Fairfax County. About 12,000 athletes from 6o countries are expected to compete.
While tickets to the events are free, the visitors have to be fed, housed and entertained, Biggar says. The economic forecast started out larger when the Games were in their planning stages, he added. But because the athletes are coming here on their “own vacation time and own dime,” the forecast has been revised to reflect lower numbers, said Biggar.
“When we were forecasting initially, we were looking at a larger amount of actual athletes coming in,” he said. “But at end of day, it is a very positive thing for the community. Whether we have 1,000 visitors or 14,000, the impact on the community is considerable and exceptionally positive.”
The most recent World Police & Fire Games were held in 2013 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Those games featured 7,000 athletes and an estimated 3,000 friends/family. The Games earned 7.3 million Euros (or about $8 million US), according to Belfast 2013 officials.
The last week of June and first week of July is usually a slow time for businesses here, said Biggar. The Games were purposely scheduled in this time frame to give a boost to the bottom line, he said.
Reston in particular should be a very busy place through July 5. Reston Town Center is the site of the Games’ Athletes Village, where participants and their family and friends can come to gather each afternoon and evening.
There will be live entertainment, social events and food trucks in the Reston Town Center pavilion and at special areas in the surface parking lot on New Dominion Drive and at President’s Park near the Hyatt Regency Reston. There are also a number of athletic events in Reston, including the triathlon, the half marathon, wrist wrestling, ice hockey and more.
“Reston is truly the gathering point for participants in these games every single afternoon and night,” Biggar said.
But it remains to be seen what kind of an impact that will have on locals who may not be able to find a parking spot, get a table at their favorite restaurant, or even get down Reston Parkway during the Games.
Officials are already telling visitors to town center that overflow parking is available at the former Sunset Hills Park and Ride lot (12050 Sunset Hills Road), a few blocks from Reston Town Center.