SEP 2015

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 5 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: Sports Events & Competitions blocks while other market segments faltered. "While corporate meetings shrunk during the recent downturn of the economy, sports events grew," said Christine Simmons, director of opera- tions for USA Fencing, who predicted that the sports industry will continue its current growth trajectory as parents increasingly support sports activities for their children. "I think the meet- ings and events industry fnally sees sports as a stable and growing piece of business." Statistics suggest a healthy outlook for the sports market. The 2014 State of the Industry report sponsored by the National Association of Sports Commissions reports year-over-year growth with visitor spending up three percent in 2014 ($8.96 billion) over 2013. Total visitors entertained in 2014 equaled 25.65 million. According to Nicole Seltzer, direc- tor of convention center sales with the Memphis Cook Convention Center (MCCC), destination-marketing strategies aimed at sports are paying off well. "Since 2012, we have almost tripled the number of sports events in the building," she said. "I now have a sales manager here who focuses on sports events and works in tandem with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau's Vice President of Sports." MCCC has hosted everything from gymnastics tournaments and dance competitions to volleyball and basket- ball tournaments and fencing. "These events are integral in rounding out our convention calendar for the year," Seltzer said. "Those gymnastics and dance competitions fll in weekend holes." A group sales manager for the sports market was also recently hired by the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala., Marie Arighi, CHSP, CMP, director of sales and marketing with the facility, further confrmed the growing impor- tance of the sports market noting that sports events round out the facility's USA Fencing championships are often held at convention centers around the South To better accommodate the sports market, many destinations are investing in facilities and infrastructure. For instance, according to Robin North, vice president of sales and services with the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the greater Macon area has nearly fnished renovating several of the region's tennis centers and is fnalizing plans to upgrade the Central City Park ball felds. The region is also home to a new, state-of-the-art boxing arena. To better accommodate sports events, North suggested that destinations prioritize planning for these groups. "Sports events are not only a great economic driver for a community, they are a beneft for the residents," she said. "When a community has good sports facilities, they can be used by residents as well as amateur and profes- sional teams." James Linderholm with the Alabama-based Huntsville Gymnastics Center pointed out that destinations need to garner an understanding of the specifc needs of various sports to be best positioned to capture the market going forward. For in- stance, he mentioned that his events require a venue with specifc width and height capacities along with good seating either as raised bank seating or in an arena. The logistics and ease of unloading and loading equipment is also an important consid- eration. For USA Fencing, events require a signifcant amount of convention center space as well as close hotels with the room-block sizes needed to accommodate attend- ees, according to Christine Simmons, director of operations for the organization. The availability of a major airport and solid restaurant and entertainment infrastructure is also important. Other requirements include water stations, concession stands with healthy food choices, practice areas and meeting-room space for seminars, training and offcials. n Infrastructure Matters

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