Regional Sports Impact

Oldham County to benefit from efforts
to bring new sports events to Louisville

Don Ward

(October 2001) Buckner, KY – Attempts by Louisville economic development officials to lure to the city major amateur and professional sporting events could have a wide-reaching tourism impact on neighboring counties, including Oldham and Carroll in Kentucky, and Clark and Floyd in southern Indiana, according to Andy Jugan, director of the Greater Louisville Sports Commission.

Andy Jugan

Andy Jugan

Many conventions that take place annually in Louisville already fill hotel rooms in these counties. But Jugan said efforts are under way to bring several new sporting events to the city that would likely require using sporting facilities and hotel rooms in nearby counties. In fact, his bid applications to host organizations’ events often include such amenities as part of Louisville’s greater metropolitan base. He says bringing such events to Louisville in many cases can also boost the local economy in these outlying areas.
“Many people believe our commission was created to bring an NBA team to Louisville. But we are about more than that. We are an economic development agency disguised as a sports entity,” Jugan told a group of about 200 people Sept. 5 attending the Quarterly Regional Forum at the Oldham County Community Center.
Jugan said that in its first year of existence, the sports commission used its $200,000 in funding to generate $21 million in bookings on future events. Jugan used the opportunity to announce that Louisville would play host to its first marathon next spring in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby Festival. The marathon will be staged the last weekend in April 2002 as a companion event to the existing mini-marathon. He expects about 7,500 participants, with only 8 percent local residents making up the field.
“Many runners bring friends or family with them who like to run in shorter events, such as a 10K or mini-marathon, so it’s a good way to make one event even larger,” he said.
Jugan was one of three speakers on the forum, which was conceived by Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson a year ago to help foster closer relationships with local officials in 23 outlying counties around Louisville. The area includes Carroll, Trimble, Henry, Oldham and Shelby in Kentucky, plus Jefferson, and Scott in Indiana. The forum was jointly hosted by Oldham County Judge Executive John Black and the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce.
Jugan is a former coach and sports administrator who took over the newly created position in March 2000. He said his job is to bring “large amateur events to Louisville that bring a lot of people and lots of money into the county.”
His job is challenging, considering the number of events held each year and the competition among large U.S. cities to play host to them. Jugan said that 15 years ago there were only four municipal sports commissions in the country. Today, there are more than 300.
Jugan and his staff of three spend much of their time preparing bids and applications to sports commissions around the county, many of them based in Indianapolis and Colorado Springs, Colo. But that is only the beginning. They must also arrange for the services, practice facilities, medical and transportation needs of teams that will compete. They also train volunteers to help stage the events. Finally, they must make sure the events go off smoothly so the teams and sponsoring agency will want to come back.
Many of these amateur events involve basketball, volleyball, soccer, boxing, track and field, and running. For example, an adult tennis tournament held in Louisville this summer involved 2,000 competitors playing on 56 tennis courts at five venues throughout the metro area, including one in New Albany, Ind. A recent USA Girls Junior Volleyball event attracted 578 teams, including parents and coaches, who filled 22,000 hotel room nights and pumped $10 million into the local economy. Future events could require the use of baseball or soccer fields in outlying counties, including Oldham.
“Louisville has become a hotbed for soccer,” said Jugan. He said he has already met with Soccer Blast officials in Buckner about the possible use of that indoor facility.
Measuring the economic impact of such events touches three aspects, Jugan said – the income generated at hotels, restaurants, rental car agencies and souvenir shops; the positive image that spectators and TV audiences may get of Louisville through their visit or viewership; and the quality of life reflected of the area. In addition, there are residual benefits – upgraded facilities and newly acquired sports equipment that are left behind for others to enjoy, plus pools of trained volunteers who may be available to work future events.
“I’ve been a big supporter of the sports commission, even though not everyone on my commission is for it,” said Jackson. “But no matter what, we have to think regionally on how we face these issues.”
Amanda Sinnette, executive director of the newly formed Oldham County Economic Development Council Inc., said that “whenever good things happen in Louisville, there’s a spinoff effect that helps us here in Oldham, so these type of events will give Oldham more exposure.”
She predicted impact to Oldham County’s hotels and restaurants and possibly in other ways. “Who knows? There may be someone visiting here who might decide to move here or locate a new business here because of their experience.”
And what about all that publicity over an NBA team in Louisville?
Jugan says he would welcome an NBA franchise. “But when you start looking at the economic impact, it gets hazy. There’s not been a stadium built anywhere with municipal dollars that has been a positive cash flow situation for the community.”
He cited studies that show many pro teams draw primarily from local residents, thereby redistributing the expendable income within a community. “When you define economic impact, its new dollars.”
Instead, Jugan’s commission is looking at such items as professional soccer. Louisville is on a list of 10 cities targeted for possible expansion by Major League Soccer. There’s also a women’s collegiate basketball tournament coming to Louisville this winter.
So you may not see the likes of Reggie Miller or Shaquille O’Neal battling on the hardwood in Louisville anytime soon, since it’s those other types of sporting events that bring new money into the community.

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