By Candice-Rose Gagnon 
BELLEVILLE – For the first time in Belleville’s history, the Quinte Bay Gymnastics Club  will be holding Team Ontario qualifiers.
It features two events: the Women’s Artistic Tour Selection and the Elite Canada Screening Competition.
The artistic tour is a qualifying meet to select gymnasts for an international competition. Ontario’s top eight athletes will represent the province in Phoenix, Ariz. at the end of January.
Gymnasts hoping to compete for a spot on the national team in Halifax in February will first have to qualify at this weekend’s Elite Canada Screening Competition.
Events are open to the public beginning on Friday, and tickets for each day is $8.00 per adult, or $20.00 for the weekend. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
Pam Taylor, head coach and club manager, said this is the first time an event like this has been held in Belleville.
“We just moved last December, so our facility is much larger this year. So now we are able to host meets like this,” she said.
There are even some local competitors vying for spots on the Ontario team, said Taylor. Those local athletes are due to compete on Saturday.
More than 50 teams and 300 athletes from across the province will be travelling to Quinte region this weekend. It is expected to boost tourism and hospitality in the area.
Dug Stevenson, the director of Bay of Quinte Tourism , said he expects this gymnastic event to bring tens of thousands of dollars to the region this weekend alone, and overall, sport tourism brings $10 million dollars per year to the area.
“So when you are talking about 300 athletes, each of those athletes travels with somewhere between two and three family members. Each of them (is) spending on average somewhere between $150 and $250 dollars here overnight. They are eating in restaurants, they are staying at hotels, they are buying our gas, they’re going to our stores. So in terms of tourism marketing dollars and economic development dollars, sports tourism is huge. And this (event) is massive for the region,” said Stevenson.
He said hotels are at or near capacity for this weekend.
The Quinte Bay Gymnastics Club will host an even bigger event next June. The Ontario Provincial Championships is expected to bring 700 to 800 athletes to the region from across the province.