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Competitors in the International Canoe Federation Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships staying at a dorm at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County in Wausau, clockwise from left: Sebastian Contreras, Argentina; Anna Wider, Switzerland; Lucas Rossi, Argentina; Nuria Vilarrubla, Spain; Huaichun Chiu, Taipei; Hungming Pan, Taipei; and Yun-Chuan Chang, Taipei, learn how to play a game Wednesday near their dorm after the first day of competition. / Dan Young/For


Athletes competing in this week's canoe and kayak championship and a state softball tournament have filled Wausau-area hotels to capacity.

More than 450 paddlers from across the globe are competing in the International Canoe Federation Junior and U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships. And more than 90 teams are competing in a Wisconsin Amateur Softball Association state tournament that's being held through Sunday in Wausau and Weston.

Those athletic events, coupled with the Wausau Balloon Rally & Glow and Chalkfest, are a boon for local hotels.

More on kayaking: Kayaking news from around the state | Your boating photos

"We have a fully booked market, and there are lots of great things for these people to do," said Darien Schaefer, executive director for the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It speaks a lot to what our community can do."

Schaefer said that most of the paddling teams -- from 27 countries overall -- booked blocks of rooms of 20 to 30 for two weeks in local hotels. Schaefer estimates the economic impact of the world championships to be about $1.8 million. The softball tournament, featuring about 90 girls teams, is likely to bring in about $1.6 million, Schaefer said.

"There might be $300,000 in room revenue this week," he said. "And lodging is not the biggest expense. (The athletes) do lots of shopping, eat at restaurants."

Schaefer expects most Wausau-area hotels to be full this weekend. Hotels were at 56 percent capacity this week last year, Schaefer said.

The U.S. and Canadian paddlers are staying at the Rib Mountain Inn in Rib Mountain, said Caroline Queen, 20, of Darnestown, Md., who will compete in the London Olympics in a few weeks.

Queen and her U23 teammate, Simon Ranagan, 18, of Bethesda, Md., said staying in one hotel as a team helps athletes get to know one another.

"It's good," Ranagan said. "It builds team unity."

Not all of the paddlers are staying in hotels, however. Paddlers from developing countries that are attempting to build whitewater programs are competing in the International Canoe Federation's championships through a special program. Those athletes, from places such as Senegal, Taiwan and Ukraine, are staying at the dormitory on the University of Wisconsin Marathon County campus.

"I can meet people from all the other countries," said Jean Pierre Bourhis, 17, of Senegal. "It's a good thing for me. ... It is fantastic to be in the U.S.A. It's the first time I've come to Wausau."

The Jefferson Street Inn is among the hotels that will be packed this weekend. Paddlers, along with people in town for the balloon rally and other social events, such as a wedding, will be guests, said Debbie Rice, Jefferson Street Inn general manager.

Having paddlers as guests brings in not only revenue, but a feeling of excitement, too. "The event is just awesome for the whole area," Rice said. "To meet those young people and see that energy level is astounding."

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