The tournament is expected to have a $7.5 million economic impact this year, pushing the total past $100 million in its 19th year, according to figures from the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau (GBCVB).
“This year we’re very excited because we have reached the $100 million level.” Red Diamond CEO Bill Bowron told Alabama NewsCenter. “A hundred million dollars, I can’t even imagine it! Just by a bunch of kids kicking a soccer ball!”
Red Diamond tea and coffee company sponsors the annual tournament, which is organized by the Birmingham United Soccer Association and volunteers. On March 4-5, 140 boys teams participated in the tournament. On March 11-12 the girls teams will compete in what has emerged as one of the Top 10 soccer tournaments in the country.
“The tournament showcases our region and city to youngsters who are at an impressionable age,” said Kevin Laux, tournament director. “These are young people who will be making decisions about college and maybe even about where to live after that.”
Family members and fans will be in tow with all of those teams.
“As many as 20,000 at a time – in terms of the tournament – will come to our community and go to the restaurants and the stores and they all go home and talk about what a great time it’s been in Birmingham,” Bowron said.
The tournament takes place at Rathmell Sports Complex in Vestavia Hills, Sports Blast Soccer Complex in Shelby County, Mountain Brook High School and Heardmont Park in Pelham, which helps spread the economic benefits.
“The Red Diamond Classic has a great economic impact for our region,” said David Galbaugh, director of sports for the GBCVB. “With two full weekends of tournaments – and players and families visiting our restaurants and filling our hotel rooms – we project $7.5 million in economic benefit for the region this year.”
Bowron said his company’s involvement has been worthwhile.
“Red Diamond has so enjoyed being a part of this tournament for so long,” he said. “I coached here. My son played here. But, more importantly, what I’ve seen is what team sports do for a community. These kids go to school. They have like interests. They support each other and they learn that it’s not only just winning – sometimes you lose the game – but it’s how you go about it in life that counts. And that’s what this sport really teaches.”