LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Thousands of people from across the globe descend on Downtown Little Rock every summer for the ATA World Expo. This year, Worlds doubles as a celebration of ATA’s 50th anniversary.

“When Eternal Grand Master and I moved here in 1977, we never imagined how much this organization and event would grow and all the different countries that would be represented,” Sun Lee, chairman of the ATA International Board, said.

ATA was founded in 1969 by Mrs. Lee’s late husband, Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee. The organization relocated its headquarters to Little Rock in 1977, where it would eventually host its first international tournament in 1990.

“They started before we even had a convention center, and they were instrumental in the expansion of this convention center back 20 years ago,” said Gretchen Hall, President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “We've been extremely lucky to keep them here and have a wonderful partnership with them.”

ATA Worlds is Little Rock’s largest annual convention and draws about 20,000 visitors to the city, according to Hall.

“In just one week’s time, the total economic impact is about $4.8 million,” she said.

The three-day Tournament of Champions kicks off at the Statehouse Convention Center on Wednesday, followed by the start of a new competition season on Saturday and Sunday. The public is encouraged to attend. Admission costs $15 per day, or $25 for a pass that covers all five days of competition.

ATA will host a 50th Anniversary Celebration on Friday night at the Robinson Center, which will include the inauguration of Grand Master G.K. Lee.