What is Stay to Play? Pros, Cons & Everything You Should Know [2024]

Samantha Barnes |
Table Of Contents

“Stay to Play” policies are common in tournament settings, particularly in youth sports. There’s a lot of debate surrounding Stay to Play: How does it impact athletes, parents, event organizers, and the community? Does it mostly have benefits–or perceived drawbacks–to those involved in the tournaments?  

Whether you're an athlete, a parent, a sports enthusiast, or just someone curious to learn more about contemporary sports management trends, this post will provide a comprehensive and clear understanding of the concept. 

Join us as we unlock the details of Stay to Play!

What is Stay to Play?

Stay to Play refers to the requirement that teams and athletes participating in a tournament only stay at designated hotels listed within the official tournament housing block. 

This policy seeks to streamline accommodations for teams and participants while also leveraging the buying power of a large group to negotiate more favorable hotel rates compared to what an individual could secure on their own.

This policy can also potentially serve as a revenue source if the event organizer (or producer) receives a commission and/or a rebate from the hotels for bringing in a large group of customers.

History of Stay to Play

As hotels recognized the recurring nature and growth of tournaments, hotels began charging higher than usual rates due to the high demand. The introduction of Stay to Play changed this dynamic by allowing event organizers and/or housing companies to negotiate with hotels and proactively lock in hotel blocks at great rates for event attendees. 

Event organizers and/or housing companies can use the tournament policy when contracting to leverage with hotels. Hotels will be more likely to contract since they will not want to lose the business from event attendees. 

Keep in Mind: If a hotel decides against partnering, they will not be listed on the official tournament site and will not be eligible to host attendees. 

Stay to Play Rules

The only concrete Stay to Play rule is that teams and participants involved in the tournament or event must lodge at one of the designated hotels. The way teams/participants secure these rooms or book these rooms is at the discretion of the event producer or housing company. 

Keep in Mind: Event organizers and/or housing companies track the number of room nights booked for each team to ensure they meet the set policy. If teams do not adhere to the policy, they may (and likely will) be marked ineligible to compete in the event.

Benefits of Stay to Play


Despite having its fair share of critics, Stay to Play can offer multiple benefits, including financial advantages and convenience for players and their families.

Contracted Hotel Rates

Event producers and/or housing companies negotiate with hotels to contract a block of rooms at a discounted rate.

If rates aren’t proactively negotiated with hotels, event participants may find stays to be more expensive than usual. If the event is popular and well-known, hotels may increase their prices due to the level of demand. Intentionally securing room blocks in advance also protects the inventory should other events in the area arise and further increase hotel demand, hence spiking rates even higher.

Pro Tip: The earlier event organizers and/or housing companies lock in the hotel blocks the better as they will be able to secure larger blocks, lower rates, and/or higher concessions (rebates & commission).

Economic Opportunities For Cities

Stay to Play tournaments and events bring in large crowds–from teams to family members of those teams. This can benefit hotels since they can guarantee a certain occupancy level for the event and predict their revenue more accurately.

In addition to the basic overnight stay, hotels can earn additional revenue from extras. This could include room service, in-hotel restaurants, spa facilities, mini-bars, or paid entertainment options. 

Participants might also extend their stay to explore the local area, providing further income for the community. Local restaurants, shops, and other businesses can also reap the economic benefits of the tournaments held in the area. They may offer concessions and services at the tournament, near the hotel, or as post-event activities. 

Reporting & Analytics

For CVBs & Sports Commissions 

Another benefit of Stay to Play is that attendance can be recorded easily with all participants and guests staying in the same hotel. Event organizers and/or housing companies can gather data from reservations and room blocks to see the total number of attendees, the percentage of traveling attendees, the number of rooms booked, and more. This allows event organizers and/or housing companies to prove the economic impact of their events. This data makes their events attractive to host cities, which entices cities to support the event organizers and/or housing companies in venue selection, hotel selection and more. 

Local sports commissions and CVBs benefit from this data since it shows the direct revenue generated from athletes and spectators who stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and shop in local stores. Plus, if the data indicates that a particular sport or event attracts a significant number of overnight visitors, the sports commission might decide to promote that event more or attract similar ones. 

Keep in Mind: CVBs and sports commissions can use the data to convince city councils, sponsors, and other potential sources of funding to invest in these events.

For Event Producers & Housing Companies

Event producers and/or housing companies will track how many rooms were booked to support the Stay to Play policy. This analysis can give a clear picture of the success of the event and the Stay to Play policy. 

Important insights include: 

  • Revenue: Reporting on the revenue generated through Stay to Play hotel bookings including any commission or rebates received on actualized room nights.
  • Booking Patterns: Track booking patterns including when participants typically book their stay, which hotels or types of rooms are most preferred, and if the length of stay corresponds accurately to the event schedule.
  • Year-to-Year Growth: Increased room nights (year-to-year) confirm the event’s growth which is attractive to cities but also confirms the effectiveness of the Stay to Play policy. 

The easiest way to access event analytics is by using tournament housing software. These platforms can help you leverage insights to make decisions that can improve the experience of your current or upcoming event. 

For example, with EventPipe, you can track attendance, monitor pick-up rates, measure the event’s financial impact, check room confirmation statuses, and more. 

Additionally, EventPipe makes it easier to capture attendee booking history and streamline the process for booking the following year so you can continue producing successful events for years to come. 

EventPipe analytics

Reduced Burden on Teams & Families

Events with Stay to Play policies prevent guests and teams from struggling to find a nice, safe, and reasonably priced hotel close to their location. Attendees don't need to negotiate amenities, accommodations, room types, services, and more because that has already been taken care of. All the attendees need to do is book their stay and participate in their event.  

This method also prevents players and families from booking a hotel in the wrong location since it is the responsibility of the event organizer or housing company to select hotels.  There isn't any stress of people getting lost on the way to the venue or being late for their match because they know the most central hotels are locked in. 

Lastly, event organizers and housing companies will contract strategically to secure large blocks to keep teams together. By keeping the team in one location, coaches and managers can monitor the team's whereabouts more effectively. The safety and well-being of the players are easier to manage when everyone stays at the same property.

Stay to Play Challenges

While enforcing Stay to Play policies can provide many benefits, there are some limitations to the policy. For example, participants and their families have limited flexibility regarding accommodations because they must adhere to the list of designated hotels. 

The selected hotels or accommodations may not meet families' needs or preferences regarding location, amenities, or affordability–and feeling forced into anything isn’t always appreciated. 

Other restrictions that can occur when using Stay to Play include: 

  • Affordability: The hotels chosen may not always be affordable for every member of the tournament.
  • Room Type: There might be restrictions on the type of room participants can book. For example, families may be required to book a standard room, even if they require more space or additional amenities.
  • Hotel Brands: Attendees may have preferences for specific brands due to rewards, membership status, amenities, and pricing. There may be times in which the event organizer and/or housing company does not have this brand as an offered hotel. 
  • Cancellation Policies: The cancellation policy might be stricter than usual, potentially causing problems if there are changes in the tournament's schedule or if a participant falls sick, gets injured, and cannot attend.

Pro Tip: By using a reputable housing company, or using EventPipe to negotiate directly with hotels, you can mitigate these types of issues and end up getting policies and rates that are more beneficial to the event producer and to the guests.

More About Stay to Play


Stay to Play Exemptions

Exemptions from Stay to Play policies will vary by tournament but here are a few ways a team or participant can be exempt from the Stay to Play policy: 

  • Local Teams: Teams that are local or living within a certain radius of the venue are often exempt from Stay to Play policies. They do not require accommodation as their homes are a travelable distance from the event location.
  • Reward Points: In some cases, an exemption may be granted if families or individuals have significant rewards or hotel points or memberships they prefer to use for their accommodation.
  • Special Accommodations:  An exemption may be granted if a participant or guest needs special accommodations for disabilities, impairments, or medical conditions. For example, a participant might need to bring their service dog to the event and will require a pet-friendly hotel to stay in for the event. 
  • Discounts: Some hotels may take military, first responders, firefighters, or other discounts that can lower rates for certain attendees and guests.

The Bottom Line on Stay to Play

Stay to Play policies are a part of many sports events and tournaments across the globe, but whether or not event organizers and/or housing companies choose to enforce a Stay to Play policy to manage housing is their choice. 

As an event organizer or housing company, no matter what you choose, you can make your tournament housing smoother with EventPipe. EventPipe’s end-to-end event housing solution means taking control of your event housing has never been easier. 

With EventPipe, you can: 

  • Select from thousands of hotels and filter them by room type, location, and amenities
  • Request desired nights, room types, concessions, and comp rooms from hotels of your choice
  • Create a customizable booking site that will wow your attendees–no coding required
  • View and manage reservation information for multiple hotels using one login
  • Let attendees easily view and manage their reservations after booking in one location for all their rooms
  • Create additional revenue streams through advertisement and other optional items like cancellation fees

And much more! 

Planning an event can be hard, but with EventPipe, you can rest assured knowing that your housing and RFP processes are taken care of. 

Ready to level up your event housing management in 2024?

Chat with our team today.