After a successful debut at the Baltimore Convention Center last year, organizers of this weekend's Christmas on the Chesapeake gymnastics event are hoping that similar results might result in larger meets coming to the area.
Bob Ouellette of Docksiders Gymnastics in Millersville, the main sponsor of the junior meet, sees the 1,500-entrant competition as another chance to show Baltimore's attributes to USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport.
Ouellette's hopes to host the Eastern Nationals as early as 2008, attracting the top gymnasts from east of the Mississippi River.
"But you have to get the head honchos to see what you're doing," said Ouellette, whose daughter, Stephanie, is the defending titlist of the top level (Level 10) of the competition. "They want to know how you're going to handle it and how it's going to help USA Gymnastics."
For 17 of the event's 19 years, the venues varied from high schools to a gym owned by Docksiders Gymnastics, with fields numbering 400 to 500 athletes. It was enough to keep the meet afloat, but the smallish locales forced organizers to turn teams away.
The Docksiders had hoped to find a larger space, but costs concerned them. Last year, the organization finally felt comfortable with the possible toll, estimated to be $20,000.
Ouellette said that the expenditure associated with the move has been equaled by the growing word of mouth about the meet at other competitions.
"Last year, we made as much out of house as the in-house competitions; the profit was the same," Ouellette said. "Everyone talked about how great the meet was. For this year, we were filled by October."