As members of the Fort Benton High School wrestling team checked into the Boothill Inn, 242 E. Airport Road, they were just glad to find a place to stay.
“We usually stay at a Best Western on the South Side, but they didn’t have any rooms available,” said Tyler Starman, assistant coach.
Starman said that he had to make a few calls before he found rooms at the Boothill.
It’s a good thing they’d booked in advance, because the 69 rooms at the Boothill were going fast.
The state wrestling tournament, which begins Friday at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, will fill hotel rooms across the city as athletes and their families from across the state descend on Billings.
“We are completely full,” said Shelli Mann, Boothill Inn’s general manager. “We fill up every year that the wrestlers come to town. It’s a great piece of business for us.”
When this many people come to Billings, it’s not only hotels that benefit from the influx of visitors. From her spot at the front desk, Mann said she sees a lot of families loaded down with bags from retailers at the mall or the West End.
“The entire city of Billings is going to see a big economic boost from the wrestlers coming from the other parts of the state,” she said.
Restaurants near the Metra are also getting ready for a brisk five days of business as Valentine’s Day and President’s Day bookend a busy weekend at the Metra.
“A 150 percent increase is what we’re expecting,” said Sina Amini, general manager at the Applebee’s on Main Street.
“We are expecting a very busy week, starting today,” Amini said.
Being right across the street from Metra, Applebee’s can get quite busy during big weekends
“(We) anticipate these events ahead of time with staffing and food and all the stuff that goes with it,” he said.
The weekend will be a good one for Billings businesses, according to officials.
“The community takes in about $900,000 in the weekend,” said Alex Tyson, executive director of the Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a quieter time of year, and to have an event like this that fills the town is definitely a good thing.”
In 2013 about 6,100 people entered the MetraPark to watch the two-day wrestling event, Tyson said.
This year, they expect similar attendance, which translates to about 2,000 hotel rooms being occupied on Thursday and Friday nights.
The Metra will be busy this weekend with a three-day gun show and a concert on Sunday night on the books, too.
“You put The Band Perry on top of it, and that makes a very good weekend for Billings,” Tyson said.