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Sports events are winners

Don Schumacher

Don Schumacher is executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), an organization that connects people and ideas in the sports event industry. NASC’s member organizations will gather April 16-19 in Hartford, Conn., for NASC’s 20th annual Sports Event Symposium.

In January, editor Vickie Mitchell talked to Schumacher about how the sports event industry has and is changing.

What changes are you seeing in the sports event industry, particularly in the smaller markets that Small Market Meetings covers?
The business has grown and grown and grown. NASC had another record year in 2011. Our membership is at 600; two years ago it was 500.

The major sports facilities that are coming online in smaller markets are the real deal. This growth is a trend — these are not isolated incidents any more.

Tell me about a few of the sports facilities that are being developed in smaller cities?
I pulled three examples for this conversation; there are many more. In Elizabethtown, Ky., a $28 million outdoor amateur sports park is being built [it is scheduled to open this summer] The Elizabethtown Sports Park will have 12 ball diamonds and 12 fields of varying sizes for soccer, field hockey and rugby.

The largest project is in Hamilton County, Ind., immediately north of Indianapolis. Grand Park: The Sports Campus at Westfield will have 32 fields, 24 of them grass, eight full-size synthetic with lights and 26 ball diamonds.

Another project, in Overland Park, Kan., the Overland Park Soccer Complex will have 12 new lighted fields.

As you said, these are just a few examples. With so many sports facilities of this type being developed, is there a danger the market will become oversaturated?

I have no concern about overbuilding. Part of the reason is that the growth is heavily in locally created events that will bring visiting teams to town. Towns like Elizabethtown are still going to be bringing in events, but they will also be busy creating their own. Also, in most cases, these new facilities meet unmet local needs and will spur amateur athletic sports events business.

How has the economic downturn affected the sports event market?
We have learned through the recession that our industry is recession-resistant. It has not stopped growing throughout all these last few years. In fact, it is much larger than in 2007. This segment is the only segment in domestic travel that has continued to grow.

Now, is it as large as the meetings, convention and tradeshow industry? Absolutely not. But the sports event market is more complex in that there has to be a lot of local support and involvement to host these events.

National Association of Sports Commissions