Vigo County will have its busiest schedule yet for cross country events in 2019, said David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.

That includes the 2019 NCAA Division I National Championships along with the Under Armour Pre-Nationals Invitational and Nike Cross Country Regional Midwest Championships at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, east of the Terre Haute Regional Airport.

“We had 3,411 runners at the Nike championships event this year, which is the largest race we ever had, and we expect that to reach over 4,000 runners next year,” Patterson said.

The course will also host the Missouri Valley Conference Championships, the Indiana High School Athletic Association Sectional Championships and the IHSAA State Championship Finals.

Up next is for officials with the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau to bid as a site for the new five-year NCAA Cross Country championships calendar for the years 2022 to 2026. Vigo County’s course is hosting one of the championships in the current five-year calendar and has hosted 16 of 21 years for the championships.

“What has happened, we have raised the bar in cross county and so other communities have invested,” Patterson said. “At some point, that sport deserves its own venue just like basketball or football. I am proud of the fact that our community have been a part of changing the sport for the better in terms of creating a specific venue only for cross country.”

Cross country, Patterson said, “gives this community a voice state, regionally and nationally. There is nothing else in Terre Haute that allows that.”

While cross country is a large part of tourism in Vigo County, other events are also attractions, including a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference swimming and diving championship to be held at the Vigo County Aquatic Center. That conference includes Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The HCAC conference championship is slated for Feb. 13-16.

Another swimming event, the Indiana State Masters Meet, will also be held at the aquatic center. It is slated for April 6 and 7.

The 92nd Annual Indiana Women’s Bowling Championship Tournament, a five-week event, will be held from March 30 to May 5 at the Terre Haute Bowling Center.

Ten racing events are scheduled at the Terre Haute Action Track, with the USAC National Sprint Cars, plus the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars scheduled for Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, 2019.

Tourism is big business in Vigo County, generating $40 million annually, Patterson said. The Vigo County Convention and Visitors Bureau will have received about $2 million by the end of 2018 to promote tourism, Patterson said, citing the increase in the local innkeepers tax to 8 percent, from 6.5 percent.

The majority of that innkeepers increase is going toward a new downtown convention center, projected to open in the spring of 2021.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.