Good Sports: The Impact of a Sporting Economy 

The Games People Play Have Lasting Effects on Our Culture and Economy

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DeWeerd said if it's football season, her family is watching the Broncos.

"I went to Washington State so my loyalties are to the Cougars, but my husband said, 'When in Rome,' So, yes, we're avid Boise State fans."

But DeWeerd is quick to add that Meridian has its own avid fan base, a loud one.

MOTORSPORTS, LACROSSE AND CYCLING

"The speedway has long roots in the community," said DeWeerd, referring to the quarter-mile track that has been the centerpiece of Treasure Valley racing for more than 60 years.

"Some really love it but, yeah, there are a few who would like to see it go away. It's probably because of the noise," said DeWeerd. "But the speedway is a major attraction. Our family loves to sit in the stands. It's a lot of fun."

However, it was another sport, soccer, that launched DeWeerd into public service, including her now-third term as Meridian's mayor.

"I was driving my kids back and forth to Boise to play soccer," she remembered. "So I decided to get involved in order to bring more parks to the city."

DeWeerd served on Meridian's Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected to the Meridian City Council in 1999 and first elected as mayor in 2003.

"Today, our youth sports programs, run through a number of nonprofits like Meridian Youth Baseball, Optimist Football and the Police Athletic League, are extremely successful. And our parks are filled with kids playing sports," said DeWeerd. "But we've also been noticing something new in the parks: lacrosse."

DeWeerd said lacrosse was gaining great popularity among Meridian school kids. Brunelle said he sees the same thing in Boise, and in his estimation, the Native American-originated game was "the fastest-growing sport in the Treasure Valley."

"Lacrosse, whitewater sports, cycling: These competitive sports didn't exist when I was growing up," said Bieter. "Watching these new sports emerge in the last 20 years has been phenomenal. And that's quickly becoming our brand. These are the sports that will help define our future."

And that, Bieter said, may be sports' greatest cultural and economic benefit to Boise--not in a stadium but on the field, in the water or on the slopes.

"Sure, Boise is an awesome sports town," said Brunelle. "But let's face it, there's a lot of great sports towns. But the difference in Boise is how many participants we have. Boiseans are the players. They're the runner, the skier, the rafter, and certainly, the cyclist."

The Treasure Valley's recent success with the inaugural Exergy Tour, a five-day world class cycling competition, was just the latest two-wheel showcase for Boise, which also boasts the ever popular Exergy Twilight Criterium. And perhaps most of all, the city wants the world to know that cycling's golden girl calls Boise home.

"I don't know if you can pick a better global ambassador than Kristin Armstrong," said Bieter.

Bieter will get a chance to remind the two-time Olympic gold medalist just how much she's loved by Boise during a special celebration, slated for Saturday, Aug. 11, which is also her birthday. And in perhaps the most tangible example of how Boise has evolved from a spectator- to a participant-centered community, scores of budding Olympians are expected to ride their bikes to the Armstrong celebration. Their parents may have preferred to cheer Armstrong onto victory but our newest generation would rather ride alongside her.

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