More than 5,000 people from 36 countries around the world are expected come to Warren County later this month for the World Flying Disc Federation World Ultimate Club Championships, and they'll spend at least $4 million on hotels, meals and other entertainment while in the area.
“It’s like the Olympics of Ultimate,” said Ben Huffman, director of sports enterprises for the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s the biggest event we’ve ever hosted.”
Like the Olympics, federation championships are held every four years.
Similar to soccer or football, competitions like this one match seven-player federation teams that toss plastic discs.
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Unlike the soccer and football, there are no referees, leaving the teams to sort out disputes “in the spirit of the game.”
"Ultimate is a fast-paced game where a team passes the disc up the pitch to score in an end zone without the defense intercepting passes. It requires athleticism and great disc skills. It's a beautiful sport to watch," Mark Bignal of Reading Ultimate, an English team competing in the championships, said in an email.
Players, fans and volunteers are expected to rack up 10,000 nights at hotels and other lodgings in Lebanon, Mason and along the the Cincinnati-Dayton corridor.
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The games will be played July 14-July 21 in Lebanon and Mason, by teams in men’s, women’s and mixed divisions.
Bignal and other members of Reading Ultimate are staying at the childhood home of the nine children of William and Jean Marie Rackett. Built in 1808, the Rackett children have all grown up and moved away from the big white house on South Mechanic Street in Lebanon.
“We could not part with the house,” said Mary Ellen Delaney, now of Columbus, who planned to meet her siblings there Friday to prepare for the coming of Reading Ultimate.
In anticipation of their English guests, Delaney and her siblings were stocking the house with tea and other English favorites, including a fruit drink called Squash.
“I am learning so much,” Delaney said after reading emails from Bignal explaining the sport and in preparation for their arrival.
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“I think it’s fascinating,” she added, acknowledging the potential impact on her hometown. “I can’t imagine the money they are going to bring in for Lebanon.”
The opening and closing games and ceremonies are at William Mason High School.
The tournament will kick off with an opening ceremony at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, at the school on Mason-Montgomery Road.
“A ‘Learn to Play’ clinic for ages 8-18, fun zone, beer garden and live music will round out the visitor experience,” according to a press release.
But the bulk of the competition will be played from July 15 to July 20 at the Lebanon Sports Complex.
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The Lebanon, Mason & Monroe tourist train will run shuttles Tuesday-Thursday between the downtown Lebanon station and fields of the complex, off U.S. 42, Ohio 63 and McClure Road.
City, chamber of commerce and Main Street Lebanon workers have been working for the past year to promote the historic downtown.
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“The City of Lebanon and our businesses are looking forward to the opportunity to showcase what Lebanon has to offer, and provide a unique experience for the national and international visitors coming for the week-long championship event. We encourage folks to come to the Sports Complex and experience a world-class event in this growing sport,” City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email response to questions.
On Friday, event organizers, the Cincinnati Ultimate Players Association, have rented out the Beach Waterpark in Mason for participants and volunteers, according to Huffman.
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About 3,000 players and 500 volunteers are anticipated. Fans are expected to come from around the country.
“I think we could get upwards of 2,000 spectators. It’s unique for the United States to host it,” Huffman said.
Packages offered to visitors feature the Cincinnati Reds, Kings Island Amusement Park and the nearby Premium Outlets Mall, Huffman said last week.
“Some of the countries are flying in this weekend,” he said.