University, Menomonie prepare for Science Olympiad influx

By University Communications
May 19, 2016
A Science Olympiad National Tournament banner hangs in downtown Menomonie, with the UW-Stout Clock Tower in the background.

Photo: A Science Olympiad National Tournament banner hangs in downtown
Menomonie, with the UW-Stout Clock Tower in the background.

Officials at University of Wisconsin-Stout aren’t the only ones preparing for a large influx of visitors this weekend at the Science Olympiad National Tournament.

Menomonie area hotels, restaurants and attractions also expect to see a surge in activity Thursday through Sunday.

Approximately 5,000 people, including 3,000 high school and middle school competitors, from 49 states will be arriving Wednesday and Thursday. The event gets underway with an expo on campus Thursday and Friday followed by the national competition Saturday, May 21. The closing ceremony is Saturday night at Johnson Fieldhouse.

A Science Olympiad Global Ambassador Team from Japan also will attend.

The event will temporarily swell Menomonie’s population — 16,264 in the 2010 census — by almost a third. The national tournament was held in Lincoln, Neb., in 2015 and Orlando in 2014. Lincoln has a population of 272,000 and Orlando 2.4 million.

Forrest Schultz“Sponsors, volunteers and participants have come together to make sure this event remains the finest national tournament of its kind,” said Forrest Schultz, the tournament director and a professor of chemistry at UW-Stout.

UW-Stout’s residence halls emptied two weeks ago after commencement, but they’ll be back in business this weekend. A total of 1,800 competitors and team officials will be staying in residence halls on south campus while another 300 guests and family members will stay in Fleming and Hovlid halls on north campus, said Scott Griesbach, director of Student Life Services.

With about 3,000 people staying off campus, most hotel rooms in Menomonie have been reserved, with reports of teams and visitors staying in hotels in Eau Claire, River Falls and Hudson, said Michelle Dingwall, CEO of the Greater Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s going to be a whirlwind,” Dingwall said.

A recent report on the national tournament indicated that the economic impact on the host city was $1.5 million.

Most teams and guests in the residence halls at UW-Stout have purchased meal packages, allowing them to eat at the main campus cafeteria, Merle M. Price Commons, with other food options at the Memorial Student Center and Jarvis Express in Jarvis Hall. Another 350 people staying off campus also purchased on-campus meal packages, Griesbach said.

A tournament worker organizes gift bags.

University Dining Service is overseeing tournament food operations. The director is Ann Thies, who attended the national tournament in Lincoln, Neb., in 2015 to help prepare.

Officials also expect city restaurants to be busy throughout the tournament.

“We’ve been planning for about 2½ years. It’s a pretty massive event. There will be a lot of activity on campus and in town. It will be a huge boon to the local economy,” Griesbach said.

Although UW-Stout classes ended May 6, more than 250 UW-Stout students will be on hand to work at the tournament.

“The tournament is a wonderful opportunity for UW-Stout to showcase its campus, faculty, staff, students and the community and Chippewa Valley,” Griesbach said.

The historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in downtown Menomonie will be used for a concert Thursday night and a closing event Saturday night. Visitors can tour a local dairy farm, the 3M manufacturing plant and Cardinal Glass.

The chamber heard from one man in Florida who is bringing his family to the tournament and is excited to have them see a Wisconsin dairy farm. A food truck with deep-fried cheese curds will be part of the expo.

3M along with Mayo Clinic, Stratasys and Xcel Energy are major event sponsors, as well as UW-Stout. Many companies support the tournament annually; learn more here.

Science Olympiad, based in Chicago, was founded in 1984. It has more than 225,000 students on 7,600 teams across the country.



Second Photo: Forrest Schultz

Third Photo: A worker prepares gift bags for the national tournament, which will involve 3,000 competitors from 121 teams representing 49 states.