Next spring will be a magical time in the Kanawha Valley as the Shawnee Sports Complex, in Dunbar, has been selected to host the 2020 U.S. Quidditch Cup.
Shawnee won the right to host the event over Columbia, South Carolina, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The tournament, scheduled for April 18 and 19, is expected to bring around 1,500 competitive Quidditch players from around the country to vie for national titles in their respective divisions.
Ben Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner, made the announcement at the complex — which is hosting the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Region Championships right now — Friday evening. He said that after touring the facility and the Charleston area, officials with the event decided it was the right location for the tournament.
“The truth is, I had never heard of Quidditch,” Salango said. “Once I found out what it was, [I learned] it’s such an exciting sport. It’s a newer sport, but it’s growing rapidly.”
Quidditch comes from the mind of author J.K. Rowling, in her fantasy book series, “Harry Potter.” In the non-magic world, the game blends elements of rugby, basketball and dodgeball. According to the U.S. Quidditch Cup website, 84 collegiate and community teams competed in this year’s event, held in Round Rock, Texas.
“Teams are coming from California, Texas, all over the place,” Salango said.
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin and Dunbar Mayor Bill Cunningham said the Quidditch tournament will do a lot for their respective cities.
“You look at sports tourism and the monumental impact that it has, not just here in Dunbar but the entire region,” Goodwin said. “The return on investment that we’re seeing in the city of Charleston from the development of this sports complex is fantastic.”
Goodwin said Shawnee being chosen is going to put the entire Kanawha Valley in the spotlight.
“It’s so exciting, and it does a couple of different things. Number one, it says to this Charleston community, ‘We’re going after big things now,’ and it also says to the nation, ‘Take another look at us and see what we have, because [we] can compete,’ ” she said.
Cunningham said this is going to be an opportunity for the Kanawha Valley to redefine itself.
“You’re going to see a tremendous amount of job growth associated with this complex,” he said. “It’s only going to grow exponentially over the years, so it gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves, become a destination and have people planning to come to the Kanawha Valley, which is very unique.”
Since so many people will be traveling to the area for the event, and other sporting events that are being held at the complex, finding lodging in the area could be an issue. Goodwin said she and her team are working to prevent that.
“There’s always growing pains when you begin to develop and grow, and those are just some of the things that we’re going to continue to work on,” she said. “We meet with business and hoteliers almost every day, looking at property sites for them to build and develop.”
Goodwin said that, while this can be a problem, it’s a really good problem for the area to have, since the amount of activity in the area is “unprecedented.”
“Shawnee casts a spell on the Quidditch players that cannot be broken,” Cunningham said. “We cannot wait to welcome them to Dunbar.”