On the beat

Fifteen million reasons

By Jim Bucher

With all the talk about the first four NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games played here at the University of Dayton Arena and bringing over $4 million to community coffers, we must not forget about a best-kept secret. It adds three times that amount to our area economy every year right around this time and it’s called Winter Guard International, the Sport of the Arts – or WGI for short.For those not in the know, a little background is in store.

“WGI is the world’s premier organization producing indoor color guard and percussion ensemble competitions,” Bart Woodley, director of operations and sponsor relations for WGI said.

Schools from all across the country and the world come to Dayton, Ohio to compete.

The event takes place over two weekends here with color guard and percussion ensembles, respectively.

“Color guard uses the flags, rifles and sabres one may associate with a marching band, and takes those performers indoors onto a basketball court to perform to recorded music,” Woodley said. “Percussion ensembles take the drums and mallet instruments into the same performance setting, but they are playing the music live.”

Now entering its 37th year, the sport continues to evolve and grow. There were more than 36,000 participants at the regional level, and more than 12,000 participants at the Sport of the Arts World Championships last year. The two-weekend event brings an estimated $15 million impact to the Miami Valley area. How about this one? They loved Dayton and the Miami Valley so much, they decided to make it permanent.

“This is the 28th year Dayton has hosted the competition,” Woodley said. “We originally came to the UD Arena due to the help of Fred J. Miller, who at the time sat on the WGI Board of directors. The world headquarters office moved here in 2003, and is currently located in Miamisburg.”

Speaking of 28 years ago, the sport has evolved a bit from its beginnings.

“The early years were very militaristic in their presentation and usually included the presentation of the national flag,” Woodley explained. “Slowly, the activity became more artistic and the presentation of the colors was not included in the group’s presentations as they were becoming more theatrical. Now our slogan is ‘Sport of the Arts’ because it takes the athleticism of an Olympic athlete, but combined with the production value you expect from Broadway productions.”

And a heck of a show it is, too, with more and more schools competing from all over.

“The indoor percussion activity is growing rapidly, and schools are starting color guards during the winter also,” Woodley said. “Even with the downward trend of finances and business, WGI World Championships attendance continued to grow. Beginning this weekend, we will host more groups at the World Championships than ever before. Three hundred twenty-eight color guard groups and 218 percussion groups will be competing.”

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a lot of hard work and practice, practice, practice for countless hours to make everything perfect – and the audience reaps the benefit.

“People will witness some amazing displays of athleticism and artistry,” Woodley said. “Every seven minutes, a new team will enter the competition space and transform the arena into a brand new environment. The dedication and excellence these young people achieve is astounding.”

Plus, it’s a lot of fun to watch. But wait, there’s more!

“WGI is staring a new third division in 2015,” Woodley said. “WGI Winds presents marching music ensembles in the same performance environment as indoor color guard and percussion ensembles to showcase their musicianship with any kind of instrumentation. Internal surveys of students currently participating in WGI color guard and percussion ensembles show that over 20 percent play another instrument.”

But, with all this success, growing pains ensue. Is WGI outgrowing our space here? For now, they’re not saying – and they have a contract for a few more years.

Woodley said WGI loves Dayton and for now is staying put. “Hotels, rental cars and sporting complexes can help maintain a great relationship with WGI by keeping rates low,” he added.

OK, are you listening all of the above? Because I can give you 15 million reasons why that’s a good idea.

 

Cheers,

Buch

 

The Color Guard World Championships are Thursday, April 3 through Saturday, April 5 from 5-11 p.m. at University of Dayton Arena, 1801 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. The finals take place from 5-11 p.m. Saturday. The Percussion World Championships are Thursday, April 10 through Saturday, April 12. The finals will place Saturday from 5-11 p.m. For more information, please visit wgi.org.

 

A regionally known and loved local television icon for over 25 years, “Buch’s” followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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