Jan 16, 2014 11:33 PM by Sam Salzwedel
TUCSON - The Tucson Association of Realtors Soccer Shootout kicks off at Fort Lowell Park Friday evening.
The event brings an estimated $3.3 million to the local economy. Of the 330 competing youth soccer clubs, 152 come from outside the Tucson area, according to Tim Vimmerstedt with Visit Tucson.
Paul Dias owns and operates a McDonald's near the tournament.
"After a soccer game, they're thirsty, they're hungry," he said. "It definitely has a significant impact on our restaurant and the number of customers that we see coming through."
Largely because of sponsors, 5,000 kids can compete in hundreds of games on 45 fields across town.
"There's been a lot more local participation from local businesses," Dias said. "And it just creates an excitement within the town, and you definitely feel that."
Bob Foley has been volunteering with the tournament since it started 24 years ago. He is surprised by its growth.
"I encounter these same children 15, 20 years later in their businesses around town," Foley said. "And they still remember this tournament."
The opening ceremonies start at Fort Lowell Park at 6 p.m. Friday. Then the kids will compete in skills competitions known as the Soccer Olympics.
"That's what the Soccer Olympics is really all about," Foley said, "helping the kids enjoy each other's company, share medals and share stories. And learn from different teams from different parts of the country."
Visitors are expected to book 2,300 hotel room-nights through the week and also visit other local attractions.