SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has some exciting news for “Harry Potter” fans.
Utahns will have a chance to attend a real national Quidditch tournament in 2021 — and it's the first of its kind to happen west of the Rockies.
City officials on Friday announced Salt Lake City's Regional Athletic Complex will host the 14th U.S. Quidditch Cup on April 17 and 18, 2021.
"We are thrilled to be the first Western host site of the U.S. Quidditch Cup, a one-of-a-kind, exciting event for both players and attendees," said Chris Laughlin, manager of the Salt Lake City Regional Athletic Complex, in a news release issued Friday.
The U.S. Quidditch Cup is the largest official Quidditch tournament in the nation. It's hosted by U.S. Quidditch, the national governing body for the sport, which continues to grow in popularity more than a decade after J.K. Rowling's seventh and final “Harry Potter" book was released in 2007.
It's estimated the tournament will draw around 7,000 attendees, with direct estimated economic impact of $2.6 million, according to the Salt Lake City mayor's office.
For local Quidditch players like Danika Liou, news that the U.S. Quidditch Cup was coming to Salt Lake City was long past due.
"Honestly, it's about time," she said, laughing.
Liou, 22, who plays on the University of Utah's Quidditch team, said past tournaments have been held on the East Coast, and the closest it's ever come to the West was when it was held in Texas last year. But in 2021, Utahns will get "home-field advantage," she said, quipping that the altitude will play in their favor.
"I don't think we ever thought we'd be able to have it here in Salt Lake City," she said. "For the entire West Coast, it's a big deal."
Mary Kimball, U.S. Quidditch's events director, said the Salt Lake City tournament is "really huge for us," noting that her organization has been wanting to come to the West for quite some time, but "we hadn't found the right partner until now."
"It became clear to us there's something really special (in Salt Lake City)," Kimball said. "We're really excited for our partnership in 2021."
Kimball called the Salt Lake City complex "excellent" for the game, and she applauded Utah for fostering a "special" Quidditch community.
"It's bigger than you think it is," she said, noting that a Utah State University team recently won the West regional championship this season.
Quidditch, in the wizarding world, is played on flying broomsticks. Players have different roles: the chasers score points by throwing a ball, the quaffle, through three raised hoops to score points; the keeper defends the hoops; the beaters bat magically enchanted (and aggressive) balls called bludgers away from their fellow players and toward their opponents; and the seeker catches the golden snitch, which ends the game and wins extra points.
"Muggle" Quidditch is a bit different. In place of flying broomsticks, players run around holding PVC pipes. The beaters throw the bludgers (dodgeballs) at opposing players to temporarily knock them out of the game. The golden snitch is a player, clad in yellow, who has a tennis ball in a velcro tail hanging from the back of their shorts, similar to flag football.
Quidditch is a "full contact, competitive, mixed-gender sport," according to the league. While some people might think it's "nerdy," Liou said it's "an actual sport" that can get rough. She described it as a mashup of several different sports, including basketball, football, dodgeball and rugby.
While Quidditch draws hardcore “Harry Potter” fans, Liou said people who have never read the novels also play.Comment on this story
"It's a great community to be a part of," said Liou, who has played for five years. "All of my friends I've made in college were through Quidditch. ... Honestly, I found my husband through (the team)."
Though Liou, who is a "beater captain," said she's graduating after this year's season, she hopes to play in a community team and qualify for the 2021 game in Salt Lake City.
The annual U.S. Quidditch Cup features 84 teams from two divisions: collegiate and community. Of those, 60 are collegiate teams and 24 are community teams, which qualify through regional championships and at-large bids to compete in the U.S. Quidditch Cup, according to the league.