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City to be swimming in athletes and fans.

Byline: Danielle M. Williamson

GARDNER - Business owners hope that hundreds of swimmers this weekend will do more than just use the Greenwood Memorial Pool. When the athletes are done competing, they'll walk onto dry land and might grab their friends and relatives and head to city shops, hotels and restaurants.

Besides providing area sports fans with the opportunity to watch dozens of competitions, the three-day swim meet is expected to draw as many as 1,000 potential customers to the city.

"Most of these people are coming from far distances," said Alice Jinn, public relations coordinator for the Greenwood Memorial Swim Club, which is hosting a U.S. sanctioned swim meet tomorrow through Sunday. "They're not going to want to drive an hour and a half home Friday night when they might have a warm-up the next morning at 7."

Ms. Jinn said nearly 582 swimmers will compete throughout the weekend. Many swimmers age 12 and under are trying to get qualifying times for age-group championships, she said. Teams and individual competitors will be coming to Gardner from throughout the state and Rhode Island.

Accustomed to taking her own children to swim meets in other parts of the state, Ms. Jinn knows firsthand about the kind of support an athlete's family is likely to give local businesses.

"Even though I pack a cooler, we end up using the restaurants that are there," she said.

Rick Walton, the owner of Gardner Ale House, is thrilled the city is again hosting such a large meet. Last year at this time, he received a significant boost from patrons who discovered the restaurant because of the competition.

"This impacts me directly," said Mr. Walton, a past sponsor of the event. "I know they're going to be looking for a place to go, and because they saw me last year, they will likely come back. Whenever they do something like this, it kind of legitimizes Gardner as a go-to place. I wish they had more swim meets."

The Colonial Hotel has already booked rooms this weekend for the swimmers and their families, according to Carla L. Vautour, assistant general manager.

"We look forward to the swim meet every year," Ms. Vautour said. "It generates business not only in our night rooms, but also for our restaurant."

Because Gardner is a repeat host of the swim meet, many of the athletes and their families are already somewhat familiar with the area, said Michael F. Ellis, president and CEO of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce.

"This event gives us an opportunity to showcase one of the most spectacular swim teams in the state, and gives our businesses the opportunity to be hospitable to these people," Mr. Ellis said. "We welcome and encourage these events. It helps our local economy."

The meet starts at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Greenwood Memorial Pool, 69 Park St., and continues with races throughout Saturday and Sunday.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 26, 2007
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