Families spending big bucks at state track and field meet

Meet brings more than $3.5 million to La Crosse economy

The WIAA State Track and Field is one of the biggest weekends of the year in La Crosse.

The city brings in about $3.5 million over the two-day event.

There are more than 3,000 athletes competing in the state track and field meet, and the athletes, their coaches and families are coming from all over the state, some from almost 300 miles away.

A few families at the meet said they’re spending hundreds of dollars to be in La Crosse this weekend, but they all say it is well worth it.

Simply put, there is a lot of money exchanging hands at the State Track and Field Meet.

“You’re probably looking at $200-$300 a night to stay,” said Jim Schiek, father of an athlete.

“We have three athletes down here, one boy and two girls, just got T-shirts for our two girls with their names and events on them, that was $72,” said Robert McLeod, assistant coach from Ashland, Wisconsin.

“You can figure a weekly paycheck might come into pretty close to being for some people,” said Jim Larson, volunteer coach from Baldwin-Woodville, Wisconsin.

Jim and Stacey Schiek traveled about 150 miles to La Crosse from Oshkosh to watch their son compete. With eight kids, the parents say they’ve learned how to budget.

“We packed coolers, so we tried to keep our costs down. We’ve got all of our sandwiches, going online and buying tickets early and parking passes early was a good idea,” Schiek said.

McLeod said his team has about 500 miles round-trip in gas just to get to and from La Crosse, not to mention the $1,000 in hotels for the two nights.

“Plus we’ve got meals for tonight, tomorrow, then the long drive back, so it’s a lot of money,” McLeod said. “I can see why they make good money down here in La Crosse.”

The city of La Crosse sees about $3.5 million flowing into local businesses and hotels.

“It definitely is probably our busiest weekend in the entire year, and how could it not be while 20,000-25,000 people six blocks away from us,” said Gary Rudy, owner of Rudy’s Drive-in.

Rudy said not only does he have to make sure he has enough food on hand, but he also needs to make sure he has enough staff to feed the hungry families.

“I would say our business, it doesn’t double, but it’s close to that for at least Friday and Saturday,” Rudy said.

But even though wallets are a little lighter after the weekend, everyone seems to think the same.

“It comes to be a little expensive, but it’s well worth it,” Larson said. “Do well or do not so well, doesn’t matter it’s something to watch.”

This meet is not only benefiting La Crosse, but there are fans here in hotels from all over the Coulee Region. Hotels are booked in Onalaska, West Salem, Sparta and Winona. The Schieks said they were thinking about camping, because they couldn’t find any available hotel rooms.