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Take your mark: Athletes, businesses gear up for regional track-and-field championships in Brunswick

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Take your mark: Athletes, businesses gear up for regional track-and-field championships in Brunswick

BRUNSWICK — Business advocates hope an upcoming athletic event will create a marketing and business opportunity, too.

The three-day USA Track & Field Region 1 Junior Olympic Championships will be held at Bowdoin College's Whittier Field from June 25-27. Organizers are expecting about 1,000 athletes – and their families – from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other states in the Northeast.

For Bowdoin College and the town's Recreation Department, the event is an opportunity to showcase athletes who are competing for a chance to participate in USATF's Junior Olympic National Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in July.

But for hotels, restaurants and retailers, the three-day spike in population could mean a spike in business.

"We're trying to take a simple athletic event and turn it into an opportunity to put on a good face for Brunswick and the region," said Dave Markovchick, the town's director of economic development.

Markovchick said the town has been collaborating with the Brunswick Downtown Association and the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce to alert their members about the potential uptick in business.

A website, brunswickevents.org, was set up to give visitors suggestions about where to eat, stay and visit.

Markovchick said his office has also been sending "pulse e-mails" to potential sponsors and business organizations to keep the event on their radar. He said some businesses will display signs featuring the event logo to welcome visitors.

The event is significantly smaller than the U.S. Youth Soccer Region 1 tournament that Brunswick, Falmouth and Portland co-hosted in 2008. That event drew more than 10,000 visitors to the region.

However, like the soccer tournament, the track championships will bring visitors from places far enough away that visitors might be persuaded to stay beyond the competition's end.

"What we heard from the Maine Office of Tourism is that some of these folks from places like Long Island or New York might turn this into a vacation," Markovchick said. "School's out, it's at the end of June. Maybe they'll consider a coastal vacation."

For that reason, local business groups in Brunswick, Freeport, Bath and Topsham have been collaborating to promote local restaurants, retailers and attractions.

David Watson, a Brunswick town councilor and track coach, as well as Tom Farrell, the head of the Recreation Department, began inquiring about the hosting the event last year.

Each state represented in Region 1 is eligible to host the event on a rotating schedule. Brunswick and Bowdoin College emerged as the winning bidder after beating out Waterville and Colby College.

Last winter, Watson touted the event as an opportunity to showcase Brunswick, in addition to giving local athletes a chance to show off their talents with some of the region's best.

Maine athletes will qualify for the event by participating in the USA Track & Field-Maine State Qualifying meet on June 19 and 20 at Scarborough High School.

Other states in the region will hold their state meets at the same time, meaning athletes and their families won't know whether they're coming to Brunswick until about a week before the Region 1 championships.

Markovchick said the Region 1 host committee has been communicating with other states so that athletes and their parents can begin thinking about their trip to Brunswick.

"We're told that about 3,000 people will be here," he said. "This is a rain or shine event, which means people will be here, hopefully shopping and visiting our restaurants."

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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