Indiana counties are profiting
from big sporting events
County considers getting in the game
to try and tap into this fast growing market
(August 2006) Every year, Madison Gymnastics
World plays host to two large state gymnastics meets. Each November,
nearly 400 gymnasts from all over the region come to Madison, Ind.,
to participate in one of the biggest meets in the state. Traditionally,
most of those girls and their families will stay at least one night
in the Madison area and will shop and eat at local stores and restaurants.
Indiana Edition Cover
In the spring, Madison Gymnastics World, plays host to
a state championship meet. Nearly 300 girls and their families will
arrive in town for a weekend stay for that meet. More family members
will travel with the gymnasts during the spring meet because it is the
championship event. Once again, up to 1,000 people will fill the towns
restaurants, shops and hotels.
Events like these bring in thousands of extra dollars in revenue for
local businesses. Throughout the country, towns large and small have
realized the huge economic impact that sporting events make. Many have
established sports marketing departments or commissions to attract these
events to their communities.
Sports commissions are a good idea for communities of all sizes
because the sports marketing experts can help attract events, book them
and then help work out all of the details, Don Schumacher, president
of the National Association of Sports Commissions, said in a telephone
interview from his Cincinnati office.
Establishing a sports marketing authority in Jefferson County could
help Madison and Hanover attract major sports events and bring millions
in direct spending to the local economy, local officials say.
of sports commissions
There are various ways in which sports commissions help
their communities. For one community, a sports marketing expert may
simply need to help attract events or offer advice. For a larger community,
a sports marketing department may be needed to organize and centralize
information about what is available in the community. Some big cities
have sports commissions that actively pursue major sporting events,
organize volunteers, seek sponsors and help to build or create the infrastructure
necessary to attract the largest of sporting events, including Olympic
courtesy of Hanover College
of college athletes came
to Jefferson County, Ind., in 2003 to
participate in the NCAA Div. III Cross
Country Championship at Hanover College.
Columbus, Ind., a community of about 39,000 residents,
several years ago formed such a group. The Columbus Convention and Visitors
Bureau and the local parks and recreation department developed a partnership
to organize the citys efforts to attract sporting events. Even
though the city had long been involved in sports tourism, officials
from both departments realized there was a need to combine efforts to
attract even larger and more sporting events.
In the three years since the partnership was established, sports tourism
has accounted for nearly $9.6 million in estimated revenue for the city.
That figure is really a very conservative number, the actual amount
is probably much higher, said Lynn Lucas, executive director of
the Columbus CVB.
When Columbus officials calculate the amount of potential revenue, they
multiply the amount of people expected to attend an event times $100
per day in spending times the number of days the event lasts.
For example, during the last week of July, the city hosted a World Series
Girls Fast Pitch Softball tournament. With 103 teams bringing, on average,
17 members, and each member bringing an extra 1.5 people with them to
stay from Sunday to the following Saturday, that calculates into roughly
$2 million dollars for the local economy in one week. With figures like
that it is easy to understand the push by officials in sports tourism.
Columbus actually played host to several other major sporting events
that week among them a tennis tournament, a state swim meet
and another softball tournament.
Sports tourism is currently the hottest thing in the industry,
Lake County, Ind., home to the cities of Gary and Merrillville and only
a short drive from Chicago, has a population nearly a half million.
CVB official Katie Holderby said that the county has always been in
the sports tourism market, but with such high demand for regional sports
events, the Lake County CVB Board of Directors decided to create a separate
sports marketing department. Although in its infancy, the new South
Shore Sports Promotions is aggressively pursuing regional sporting events
The new marketing department deals with the tourism aspects of the event
and is also capable of supplying a local expert in whatever sport is
involved. Department officials take inventory of the areas sporting
venues, prepare bids proposals, arrange for facility inspections, secure
room blocks for area hotels, organize local committees for volunteering,
provide publicity and create new events and venues for its regional
Holderby said that the department is a go-between for sports officials
looking to find venues in the area or looking to bid on tournaments
for the area. The department was created because of the bottom-up effect,
a situation in which a customer was looking for a single source to find
information about sites, housing, rates and other factors before booking
events in the area.
Indiana Sports Corp.
Koch takes a swing during last years LPGA Solheim Cup Championship,
held in Indianapolis.
In Indianapolis, the Indiana Sports Corporation has worked
for nearly 25 years to bring Olympic-size events to the states
capital city. During the weekend in which the city played host to the
NCAA Mens Final Four, more than $40 million in direct spending
came through the local economy, ISC officials say. During the Big 10
basketball weekends, Indianapolis businesses took in $10 million in
Susan Williams, president of ISC, said sports commissions are great
for communities for several reasons. First, they help create financial
opportunities for the community. They also help energize a community
by providing entertainment for corporations and families, and they help
make a community more attractive for sports officials looking for a
place to hold an event.
She added that a sports commission can generate badly needed volunteers
for sporting events, as well.
She said when Indianapolis plays host to big events, thousands of volunteers
are needed. For recent tennis events, 2,000 volunteers were gathered.
For the LPGAs Solheim Cup golf championship held there last year,
more than 3,000 volunteers were organized.
other sports commissions work
One of the first steps that all of the sports marketing
officials agreed upon in organizing a sports commission is to take stock
of what the community offers as far as venues, infrastructure, natural
surroundings and volunteer base. Communities need to evaluate
their assets, decide what their appropriate niche is and then set some
goals, the ISCs Williams said.
For example, Lake County officials realized that bowling was a huge
sport in their area, so they began to pursue bowling events. Today,
bowling tournaments, both amateur and professional, are their largest
market. They also cater to basketball and track and field events.
Columbus officials simply looked around and realized they had great
venues to hold softball tournaments and other youth sporting events,
so that is the market they focus on when trying to book events.
Look at what you have, and build from there, Lucas advises.
Schumacher agreed, saying Sports event can leave $100,000 or more
behind in a community because there was no need to create a venue; it
was already there before the event was booked.
On the other hand, the ISC goes for the huge markets because Indianapolis
has the infrastructure and the venues to pursue world-class events,
such as the Pan American games or the Solheim Cup.
Communities must also decide what type of sports commission will fit
their particular needs, these officials say.
Indiana Sports Corp.
of McCordsville, Ind.,
performs at a recent gymnastics meet in Indianapolis. She is a
top gymnast with
Deveaux Gymnastics Club
in Fishers, Ind.
Schumacher said that while there are about 100 sports
commissions throughout the country, there are about 300 communities
that operate their sports marketing from their tourism departments.
Smaller communities usually choose to work out of their tourism department
with a specialist who knows the business side of sports marketing, he
In 2003, Hanover College played host to the NCAA Div. III National Cross
County Championships. Forty-eight teams with five runners each and several
coaches and 180 individual runners with their coaches attended the meet,
school officials said. Hotels throughout the entire area were filled
for that event. Restaurants and gas stations also benefited from the
influx of visitors to the area.
According to the NASC, every athlete brings, on average, 2.3 people
with him, and the younger the athlete, the more people that trail along.
With that in mind, nearly 2,000 people visited the Hanover area for
the cross country meet and spent money on food, restaurants, hotels
a sports commission can help
According to Hanover College Information Director Carter
Cloyd, Hanover College has been awarded two more major cross country
events, the 2006 NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional to be held on
Nov. 11, and the 2008 National Cross Country Championships.
Cloyd said he believes that a sports commission for the area could certainly
help with sorting out housing accommodations for the athletes and could
also help rally community support for these kinds of events.
Many people did not know such a prestigious event was happening
here, he said, referring to the previous NCAA championship meet.
He also thought a sports commission could help bring in even more of
these types of events to the area.
Stephanie Kemp, owner of Madison Gymnastics World, agreed that a sports
authority could help bring about public awareness of how successful
many sports programs are in the area. Every year, girls in our
town bring in 20-30 individual gold medals from the state championships
and several team state championships, but the community is not aware
of how successful they are, she said.
According to the experts, a sports commission could aide in finding
and securing the sites for the gymnastics championships that are held
here each year, find volunteers to help and secure suitable room accommodations
for gymnasts and their families.
Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda
Lytle said that she met with Madison Mayor Al Huntington and the Madison-Jefferson
County Industrial Development Corp. (MIDCOR) more than a year ago to
discuss the idea of developing a local sports authority.
She said that at this point, however, the idea has not gone any further
than that discussion, and that any sports commission would have to be
a join effort between the CVB and the city.
is among the many amateur
sports that some Indiana towns have used
to lure large athletic events to their area.
She agreed that a sports tourism program would be beneficial
to the county simply because of seeing the amount of money sports events
bring to other communities. After attending a conference on the issue
two years ago, Lytle said, Research indicates revenue generated
from sports events is far more than what many tourism programs bring
MIDCOR Interim Director Bernard Murphy, who was not a part of the past
discussion about a possible sports authority, said he did not know anything
about plans in Madison to create a sports commission. However, he did
agree that it would certainly be something to look into and consider.
Murphy acknowledged that sports events could help attract more people
to the city, and they could also attract business or individuals to
relocate here after simply visiting for a sports event.
MIDCOR Board President Matthew Forrester, also president and CEO of
River Valley Financial Bank, said, We need to keep an open mind
and explore all possibilities because ultimately those possibilities
present economic opportunities for our community.
Madison has some excellent venues in which to hold sporting events,
local officials say. These include Hanover College, local high schools
sports fields, the Ohio River, the citys Rucker Sports Complex,
Clifty Falls State Park, local golf courses, and the countys 4-H
Fairgrounds. Equestrian events, more cross country events, youth soccer
and youth ball sports, wrestling, fishing tournaments, boating events
and golf tournaments are among the sports that marketing experts could
consider pursuing to attract large events.
This is something that we need to look into more, because if we
dont, we are going to be left behind while our neighboring counties
land these large sporting events and capture the market, Lytle
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