# Tournament Travel Distances

by Matthew Kidd

In a previous article, Tournament Table Counts, I tallied the number of each ACBL tournament type, showed the distribution of tables counts for regionals and sectionals, and looked at district by district variation in regional, sectional, and STaC tournament play in terms of the average number of sessions per year. The article generated interesting followup questions on Bridge Winners. Gene Saxe for one asked questions that got me interested in examining travel distances to tournaments.

Below I present travel distance histograms for all the 2015 NABCs and open/split regionals along with some commentary. The results are sorted by district and by tournament date within each district. Indexes by district and city are provided below for quick navigation and the generation of URLs for specific districts or tournaments.

The distance bins are logarithmically spaced which tells a better visual story than linear spacing would. Roughly speaking the bin edges are 0 (labeled), 10 (labeled), 20, 50, 100 (labeled), 200, 500, 1000 (labeled), and 2000 but the unlabeled values are actually 22, 46, 215, 464, and 2154, awkward numbers resulting from the logarithmic spacing. Distances are as the crow flies rather than the actual commute distance and are computed as the distance between the tournament city and the tournament participant’s city based on free geo data for cities and programmatic lookups using the Google Maps Geocoding API for less well known locations. Distances are computed for all participants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, i.e. the entire ACBL territory. Participants residing in other countries are ignored.

Results are based on the tournament participants who won masterpoints at the tournament because the participant’s home cities are taken from the list of masterpoint winners. Typically 90-95% of participants win some masterpoints at a regional, so the results should be very representative of the tournament as a whole.

Having to rely on city names rather than each participant’s actual address makes it impossible to determine the travel distance for players who live in the city where the tournament is held. As a practical matter this group of participants is thrown into the 0-10 mile bin though in large cities some may actually travel more than 10 miles. When computing the average tournament travel distance as shown on the plots, all players living in the same city as the tournament are assumed to travel 10 miles which on average is reasonable though probably an underestimate in big cities and an overestimate in small cities.

Each histogram is hyperlinked to the tournament results on the ACBL website. Clicking on a histogram will open those results in a new browser tab. Each histogram has includes text displaying the number of tables, number of masterpoint winners, average travel distance, and the two most common session start times.

The entire set of histogram images is available for download in a single zip file.

## NABCs

Chicago is illustrative of a healthy NABC, combining good attendance from an extended metropolitan region, roughly one third of the participants, with many visitors. Presumably the locals find the commute to be acceptable and the visitors find the destination has more appeal than simply a place to play bridge. New Orleans lacks the locals. The shape of Denver is similar to Chicago but scaled down, both in terms of the number of locals to draw upon and its draw for visitors.

In these discussions it is important to understand that an ethos of cheapness permeates the ACBL membership and is duly reflected by the bridge administrators as appropriate for representative governance. Cities are often scheduled during their less flattering seasons in an effort to secure cheap accommodations. A city like Chicago is interesting year round to a broad range of people. Denver near Thanksgiving was just plain cold for some, though the skiing was very good. New Orleans is also interesting year round but the city lacks a large local bridge community.

## District 1 Regionals

D1 (Eastern Canada) is characterized by small isolated locations such that there is usually a sharp distinction between the locals and the visitors. The exception is Dorval which draws on the large Montreal area.

## District 2 Regionals

D2 (Ontario and Manitoba) exhibits behavior similar to D1 but players are less willing to travel. Barrie and Thunder Bay are a split regional pair separated by ~700 miles and 14 hours by car. The Bermuda histogram looks funny because local Bermuda residents got ignored. But even so Bermuda is a destination regional, with nearly two thirds of the participants flying in.

## District 3 Regionals

D3 members show little gumption for commuting despite living in a wealthy part of the country such that paying for overnight accommodations should not pose an undue burden. Tediously slow and narrow roads may be part of the issue. Also the predominantly commuter schedule (10 am start time) and boring destinations may discourage pro teams. Nonetheless the situation remains mysterious.

## District 4 Regionals

Most D4 (Eastern Pennsylvania) regionals are in out of the way places that draw from a densely packed state of small towns to fill out the middle distances. Philadelphia is the exception, drawing on a metropolitan area but even so participation is almost entirely from the greater Philadelphia region. Heritetta, NY and Camp Hill, PA are a split regional pair separated by ~250 miles.

## District 5 Regionals

D5 exhibits behavior similar to D4, neither Buffalo or Pittsburgh proving to be much of a draw for non-locals.

## District 6 Regionals

D6 (Virginia, Maryland, D.C.) does very well. Its alliance with D7 as part of the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference (MABC) until very recently, may be a contributing factor. The D6 regionals are predominantly outside major metropolitan areas and seem to act like destination regionals within the district where players get away from the hustle bustle of their home town for a few days

## District 7 Regionals

D7 (Carolinas and Georgia area) is host to the exceptional Gatlinburg regional which has become so large as to effectively constitute a fourth NABC. But in some ways it resembles the D6 + D7 MABC model of regionals predominantly outside major metropolitan areas that seem to act like destination regionals within the district, similar to Wilmington, Pine Mountain, and Myrtle Beach, and even Charlotte, though this last also draws on the locals. It’s just that Gatlinburg hit a critical mass. All the D7 regionals except Wilmington are on the traditional 1 pm and 7 pm schedule.

The Atlanta regional attendance is predominantly locals drawn from a large metropolitan area. The Atlanta area is complemented by the 800+ table Atlanta area sectionals which are not shown here.

## District 8 Regionals

D8 typically has small regionals attended primarily by locals or district members. Interestingly the long tail is more pronounced for St. Louis than Crystal Lake which is near Chicago. This might have something to with St. Louis being an airport hub, long ago for TWA and now as a “focus city” for Southwest and outright hub for the lesser known Air Choice One and Cape Air airlines. Effingham and Crystal Lake are a split regional pair separated by ~250 miles. Champaign-(Urbana) is a university town whose regional draws attendance from Illinois and Indiana.

## District 9 Regionals

D9 (Florida) is a huge district with ~20,000 members as of 2106 and 9 regionals, which though four more than a typical district, may still be insufficient. Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando, exhibits both strong local participation from a large metropolitan area and the characteristics of a destination regional, a powerful combination that results in a high table count. Palmetto and Fort Lauderdale are similar and all three are scheduled at an appealing time of year for destination traffic. Sandestin, in the Florida panhandle is a destination regional. Tampa and Jacksonville draw mostly locals as does Naples though it picks up some destination visitors.

## District 10 Regionals

D10 (Mid-South) regionals exhibit similar characteristics to D6 and D7 regionals but do not draw nearly as many participants. This merits further study. Perhaps there is a growth opportunity here.

## District 11 Regionals

D11 (Kentucky and Ohio area) regionals exhibit characteristics similar to the other mid-western districts. District members are willing to travel ~100 miles to the regional but the regionals have little pull outside the district. Cincinnati and Owensboro are a split regional pair separated by ~200 miles.

## District 12 Regionals

D12 (Michigan and northwest Ohio) regionals exhibit characteristics similar to the other mid-western districts. District members are willing to travel ~100 miles to the regional but the regionals have little pull outside the district. Farmington Hills is primarily attended by locals.

## District 13 Regionals

D13 regionals draw mostly from the greater Chicago region but do not have the destination pull of a tournament located in Chicago proper, e.g. the NABC. Milwaukee and Eau Claire are a split regional pair separated by ~250 miles.

## District 14 Regionals

The Great Plains dwellers of D14 are used to driving great distances and do not hesitate to go the distance within their large district. Fargo and Council Bluff are both pick up a bit of destination traffic. Perhaps these are pros or maybe these are “get away from it all” destinations.

## District 15 Regionals

D15 regional participants do not show the same proclivity to go the distance as their D14 neighbors.

## District 16 Regionals

D16 (Mexico and most of Texas) is a mixed bag. The two Mexican regionals, Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allenda, are destination regionals. Houston draws from an extended metropolitan area but fails to act as a destination regional even through Jan-Feb rates to be a good time for bridge players to escape cold locales. Perhaps Houston is shadowed by the Bermuda, Wilmington, N.C., and Riverside, CA regionals which occur close in time and are also in warm locations. The Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) regional behaves similar to the Houston regional though the low mileage bins are slightly different because DFW is between two cities such that fewer players are only 0-10 miles from it.

## District 17 Regionals

The D17 regionals are robust given the sparseness of the West. Albuquerque, Tucson, and Denver draw both locals and from an extended area. Tucson has some pull as a destination resort and is scheduled at a good time (February) for this purpose. Taos is a destination resort within the district for those who know and appreciate the West. Its histogram resembles the one for the Mrytle Beach, SC regional in D7. Las Vegas is closer to a true destination regional.

## District 18 Regionals

In D18, the Calgary and Regina in Canada resemble the Canadian regionals in D1, with strong local participation from a modest sized city and a fair number of players willing to travel the distance. Bozeman, MT and Jackpot, NV are destination resorts within the district.

## District 19 Regionals

The Saanich regional on Vancouver Island naturally draws from the Vancouver area but also has modest appeal as a destination resort. The large Penticton regional is a destination regional. Lynnwood is primarily a local regional for Seattle. Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed tourist town, is an in-district destination regional.

## District 20 Regionals

Honolulu is the purest of destination regionals. Seaside on the Oregon coast is also a destination regional, achieving an incredible 3000 tables for a rather remote area. Beauty may be part of the draw but I suspect there is more to the story. The remaining D20 regionals are much more local affairs.

## District 21 Regionals

D21 (Northern California and Reno) has consistently large regionals but seemingly little distant pull. With the exception of Monterey, these regionals are held in uninspiring locations in a very expensive area where better options mostly likely can not be found at an acceptable price.

## District 22 Regionals

D22 is dominated by commuter regionals with the commuter schedule (10:00 am & 3:15 pm). Irvine, Riverside, and Ventura are classic examples. The Irvine regional is held in the jewel of suburbia, close the freeway, in an area utterly devoid of life. There is no reason to stick around. Riverside has a single interesting structure, The Mission Inn, and has gussied up a small area of downtown. But after a short walk north of the host hotel, one partner summed up the town as, “the place where dreams go to die,” a fitting epitaph.

San Diego, with its excellent weather and beaches, great brewpub scene, and adequate dining, has more to offer and this is reflected in its tournament histogram though sadly the players are corralled in demoralizing Hotel Circle. Rancho Mirage is a destination regional, and the second largest regional in 2015, behind only Gatlinburg. The Palm Springs area offers little but sun, golf, and minimally acceptable dining, but the host resort is pleasant and affordable and the tournament is well timed for those needing a dose of sunshine.

## District 23 Regionals

The D23 (Los Angeles) regionals are strictly local affairs. Even would be commuters do not want to put up with the traffic. Torrance is an armpit but Pasadena should do better than it does.

## District 24 Regionals

Like D23 (Los Angeles), the D24 regionals are strictly local affairs. The regionals on Long Island understandably are not a destination but the New York City regionals which are in the heart of downtown, not far from Central Park, should be more of a draw than they are. But card fees were \$20 / session and a room at the New York Hilton Hotel in either May or December runs about \$350 / night (the tournament flyer doesn’t mention a bridge rate). I suspect this tournament is just too expensive for non-locals. Why not fly to Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs) instead and stay for several days for the cost of a couple of nights in New York City?

## District 25 Regionals

Newton, MA is the definition of a local regional. Even isolated Anchorage draws more non-locals. The rest of the D25 (New England) regionals follow a similar pattern and have low attendance. D25 is failing to thrive. Couldn’t they at least schedule one of the Connecticut or Massachusetts regionals when autumn is in full glory?