The Marianas Visitors Authority is hoping to capitalize on the successful staging of the inaugural KONQER Saipan King of the Hill as it plans to add the event to its promotional pitch for the islands’ growing sports tourism market.
Before KONQER Saipan, the CNMI, through MVA and the help of various sectors of the community—has also successfully staged several world class sports events like XTERRA Saipan, Tagaman Triathlon, Hell of the Marianas, Saipan International Marathon, Ironman 70.3, and Rota Blue Triathlon. These competitions have attracted athletes of all ages and skill levels from nearby Guam, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Philippines, Mexico, Austria, Russia, China, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, and Slovakia.
Now, add KONQER Saipan on that growing list as MVA managing director Chris Concepcion said their agency will continue to push for sports tourism to diversify the CNMI’s tourism market.
“KONQER Saipan King of the Hill was a phenomenal success. We initially targeted 250 participants but we registered 497. This is the newest sporting event in the CNMI, so the MVA is pleased to present this to our visitors and residents,” said Concepcion.
“We wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle to the local community and have KONQER Saipan as part of MVA’s sports tourism events. We’re looking forward to having the same event in Tinian and Rota if logistics and funding permit, as we also wanted to increase tourism traffic in both islands,” he added.
Sports tourism is a $7.68-billion industry that attracts professional and amateur athletes competing in various athletic events. The CNMI is hoping to get a share of that growing market by including sports events to other fun events on the islands.
KONQER Sports chief executive officer Kaz Endo supports MVA’s sports tourism promotion, saying they will help the CNMI in any capacity as they also aim to bring their event to nearby countries. KONQER was previously held in Guam and Palau and with the addition of Saipan, the event is now a three-circuit race.
KONQER Sports president Kelli Wedd, on the other hand, said with the Palau Visitors Authority promoting eco-tourism on the island-nation, they decided to add that element when the race was held in Peleliu and Koror last June.
“It was fitting that we include an [eco-tourism] element in our inaugural event. The first day, we took a number of participants through the island of Peleliu, showcasing the natural and challenging terrain, and educating participants on what occurred during the Battle of Peleliu during World War II,” Wedd told Saipan Tribune.
She added that the race in Peleliu was not timed, “but did add an element that showed both the beauty and history of the island. The second day of KONQER Palau was the traditional obstacle course challenge.”
For KONQER Saipan, the event was held for only a day at the Gov. Eloy S. Inos Peace Park in Puerto Rico and 497 participated in the solo and team divisions spread out in four categories—Enduro, Sprint, Business League, and Completion.
Endo and Wedd posthumously presented a commemorative race No. 499 bib to the family of the late governor. Dora and Tina, the late governor’s daughters, received the commemorative bib. KONQER Sports officials also gave one to MVA, race bib No. 498.
“We were proud to present the family of Gov. Inos with an honorary KONQER bib, in celebration of hosting the first major event at the Peace Park,” said Wedd.
The rain, which made the course muddy and more difficult, stopped for a while and the sun came out as the commemorative bib was presented to the family of the late governor.
“The sun came out, it is a sign that the late governor is looking down upon as. We hope the Peace Park would be KONQER Saipan’s permanent home,” commented Endo.
Concepcion said holding the inaugural event at the Peace Park is their way of honoring the late governor, whose leadership pushed for the conversion of the former landfill.
“KONQER Sports and MVA wanted to recognize our late governor for his contributions to the CNMI. We would like to thank him for his efforts at closing the former Puerto Rico landfill, which today is a beautiful community park fronting our famous lagoon with a stunning view of Managaha island, Garapan, and the mountains of Saipan,” Concepcion added.