Aberdeen has about 935 hotel rooms, and the opening this spring of the Marriott TownPlace Suites will bring the total very close to 1,000.
That figure, with Marriott's 56 suites, is usually enough to meet the needs of Aberdeen's guests. But it’s not sufficient when Aberdeen hosts state wrestling and boys’ basketball tournaments, said Aberdeen Central athletic director Gene Brownell.
If Aberdeen had 1,200 motel rooms, that would help alleviate concerns about housing during the two big tournaments, Brownell said.
This weekend's State B Wrestling tournament will attract 5,000 people to Aberdeen, Brownell said.
The city has to provide “housing for the great majority of those people, and that's not simple,” said Brownell, who manages the wrestling tournament.
Some of the people find beds that aren’t in Aberdeen hotels. Folks are staying in private homes, hunting lodges and in neighboring communities.
“That’s the norm,” Brownell said.
In addition to the city's hotel rooms, the Aberdeen Convention and Visitors Bureau tells people about additional lodging.
“Within a 50-mile radius. we can probably come up with another 600 beds,” said Brenda Moore, executive director of the CVB.
That lodging includes a house at Mina Lake Recreation Area, hunting lodges, bed and breakfasts and motels in such area cities as Redfield, Webster and Ellendale, N.D. For people from larger cities, up to 50 miles is “a pretty normal range for a big event,” Moore said.
On a website called dakotagrappler.com, a few people make Aberdeen hotel rooms available to wrestling fans who need them.
It is not true, though, that Aberdeen hotels are sold out all weekend.
On Thursday, the Ramkota Hotel had a few rooms remaining for Thursday night and Saturday night. During a state wrestling tournament, Friday is always the night most in demand, said Ramkota general manager Bruce Kieffer. Weather concerns and people making last-minute travel decisions also leave some rooms available, he said.
For the State B wrestling tournament, the South Dakota High School Activities Association reserves 300 rooms at Aberdeen hotels, Kieffer said. The SDHSAA books 95 rooms during the State B boys basketball tournament, Kieffer said.
Brownell said it's inevitable there will be some grumbling about accommodations during a tournament.
To meet the needs of tournament fans, Aberdeen needs a couple of more hotels that offer mid-range pricing, Brownell said. Some tournament fans want a specific hotel at a specific rate for a certain number of days, he said. In Aberdeen, they don't have as many options as they would find in Sioux Falls, Rapid City or Mitchell.
“But we do the very best we can,” Brownell said.
The State A wrestling tournament runs today and Saturday at the Watertown Civic Arena. Watertown has about 840 hotel rooms, said Kathy McInroy of the Watertown Convention and Visitors Bureau. If beds run short, Brookings is only about 45 miles away, she said.
Moore said there are certain times of the year when you can use more rooms and there are times of the year that you don’t.
“So it just depends, I guess, which end of the spectrum you're on. We just work real hard to make sure everybody's accommodated,” she said.
There are lots of things a city can do to provide additional rooms, Moore said. Many visitors have formed lifelong friendships by staying in private homes, she said.
When the USA Track and Field Region 8 championships are in Aberdeen in July, athletes will be housed at residence halls at Northern State University and possibly Presentation College, Moore said.
In addition to providing housing, local hotels help the State B wrestling tournament in another way. The Aberdeen Hotel Alliance helps pay for the hospitality room at the Barnett Center.
Aberdeen will put out the welcome mat for the Class B boys' basketball tournament March 14-16.
The Class B wrestling tourney will return to Aberdeen a year from now.
Also during the 2013-14 school year, the Hub City will play host to the boys and girls state soccer tournaments in October, the Class A volleyball tournament in November, the gymnastics meet in February 2014 and the Class B boys' basketball tournament in March 2014.