SEP 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 32 MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: SPORTS EVENTS & COMPETITIONS experience, Schroder said. "When you are talking about sports versus convention groups, it's really important to get a good understanding of all the needs of the event and determine how [a destina- tion] fits those needs," he said. "If there is a sport out there we don't have an infrastructure for, we will certainly share that with an event organizer. I think they appreciate the honesty and trustworthi- ness in developing that relationship. Then maybe that organizer transitions to another sport that we are a good fit for." Due to myriad moving parts that are the nature of any sports event, Schuster noted that many rights holders and managers are overwhelmed. That's why CMP Meeting Services recently added a division dedicated to sports team travel. "We've been working on everything from sports associations to youth sports to collegiate sports. They all need support," he said. "I think the mar- ket is underserved because from the standpoint of an athletic director or coach mentality, they have to keep budgets tight. They are coaches, not travel experts." Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commis- sion, emphasized the importance of working with a local sports commission to access needed resources that may exist. "We hope to provide different types of assistance to event planners based on their needs. We offer grants to help events grow and provide services such as hospitality and accommodations for staff and officials, relieving event budgets to market and grow events," she said. "We also can assist with permitting and arranging meetings with city po- lice, fire and other services needed to execute an event. Working with an area sports commission provides access to local businesses, venues and staffing, which saves the planner the resource of time when going to a new city or trying to grow and expand an existing city." For Sports, Infrastructure is Paramount Destination management professionals who work with sports events know that the make-or-break element of any RFP comes down to facilities. In addition, infrastructure appeal, price point and convenience of a region are also important. "Great facilities are on top of our list and if they are in a destination that attracts more teams, that's even better," said Mobley. For the organization's Global World Series events, Mobley mentioned that basic expectations start with well-maintained fields and facilities, plenty of accommodation options and participant safety. The Alabama Gulf Coast cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, while not the largest destination, have proved the right combination for the group's event that hosts more than 1,000 teams from mid-June through the end of July each year. "It's a great experience for all the teams who come for our World Series," he said. "Not only do they compete in world-class tour- naments and play on first-class fields but they are able to enjoy a great family vacation." Galbaugh noted that destinations interested in the sports market cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to infrastructure. "It's a highly competitive market and if you are not building those new facilities or upgrading them, then you are falling behind," he said, citing Birmingham's world-class facilities such as the Birmingham-Jef- ferson Convention Complex, a multi-venue option located within a centralized entertain- ment district, and the Birmingham CrossPlex, a 221,000-square-foot multipurpose athletic and meeting facility, which houses one of the top track and field locations in the nation. Additionally, the region just introduced the new Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, housing six NCAA regulation-size fields appropriate for soccer, lacrosse or football; eight baseball/soft- ball fields; 15 tennis courts; and a two-mile walking track on the outside. An indoor facility is also available that provides a full- size football or soccer field, nine regula- tion-size bas- ketball courts and 12 regulation-size volleyball courts or six tennis courts. "That's really huge for us in terms of youth sports," Galbaugh said. "We're really happy to have that facility come online." Facilities are a key draw for Winston-Salem, N.C., according to Bernat, who points to such facilities as BB&T Field, the 31,500-seat home of Wake Forest University football, Wake For- est Tennis Complex and other state-of-the art facilities offered through the university. Among other offerings, the region is also home to JDL Fast Track, an indoor track facility that has played host to four national championships. Notably, Winston-Salem just celebrated the completion of a $20 million renovation to the 106,000-square-foot Benton Convention Cen- ter, opening new opportunities for sports. ► The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (Ala.)Sports Commission hosts more than 1,000 teams from mid-June through the end of July each year.

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