Hutchinson is vying to host the Kansas Shrine Bowl, an annual summer football game showcasing the state’s best high school seniors in an East vs. West match.
Events run Tuesday through Friday and include a parade, band camp, cheer camp, golf tournament, 5K run/1-mile walk, and a banquet. The Kansas Shrine Bowl is a non-profit organization that raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children, and the football players also typically visit a hospital.
The economic impact for the host community is estimated at $1.75 million to $2.5 million, according to the Kansas Shrine Bowl.
This year’s Shrine Bowl will be played July 28 in Pittsburg. In 2019, Dodge City will host the game.
Greater Hutchinson Convention/Visitors Bureau’s Vice President of Operations and Tourism LeAnn Cox said the Shrine Bowl is inviting host proposals for 2020, 2021, and 2022. The city has submitted a bid previously and has not been awarded the game. While Hutchinson can seek to host it all three years, it would not most likely get the event more than one of those years, Cox indicated.
Bidding to host a Shrine Bowl game is “extremely competitive,” Cox said. Six or eight or maybe 10 communities will be vying, she said.
In an effort to allow more communities the chance to host a Shrine Bowl game, the organization is loosening date restrictions. It has long scheduled the game for the last Saturday in July, but communities competing for 2020-2022 can submit three game date options in either June or July for each of the three years.
Proposals are due Friday, July 13. Finalist cities will make presentations in September, and the cities selected for 2020-2022 will be notified by Oct. 1.
The East-West game began in 1974, and alumni who have gone on to careers in professional football include Barry Sanders and Jordy Nelson. The game has been held in cities with four-year universities — such as Emporia, Manhattan, Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, and Pittsburg. But last year, it was held at Butler Community College. If Hutchinson is selected, the game would be played at Hutchinson Community College’s Gowans Stadium.
In addition to the football players, about 225 high school musicians would perform in the Kansas Masonic Band, and the Kansas All-Star Cheer squad would consist of about 200 members. A downtown parade would attract Shriners from across the state. On the Friday evening before the Saturday football game, there would be a Kansas Shrine Bowl banquet for about 1,200 people.
Cox said there are enough motel rooms to accommodate the expected visitors.
“We’re working with our local Shriners group,” she said, and their help and support is “a definite plus.”
Nate Nelzen, president of the Reno County Shrine Club, thinks Hutchinson would be a good host. “We’re used to having big crowds come in for events,” said Nelzen, citing the NJCAA men’s basketball tournament. The community is “very well equipped to handle it,” he said.
There are a lot of moving parts, Cox said, in determining the dates to put in the proposal.
“We’re looking at every weekend in June and every weekend in July,” she said. They want to avoid proposing weekends that would compete with other major events here. For example, last weekend Hutchinson was host to Smallville Comic-Con, and Cox noted how that event is growing. “We definitely don’t want to look at a day on top of their date,” she said.
Shrine Bowl host communities must provide a financial commitment, she said. Most such events require a fee or financial commitment from the community, she said, and the funds would come from Visit Hutch.