As David Terrell watched more than 200 runners
race by during last years NCAA Div. III National Cross Country Championship
at Hanover College, a light bulb went off in his head. What would be the
chances of creating a sports commission to bring in more athletic events
to Jefferson County as part of an overall economic development effort?
After all, as executive director of Madison-Jefferson County Economic
Development Corp, it is Terrells job to study ways of attracting
new businesses and creating local jobs.
Since that revelation, Terrell has been informally discussing the idea
with other community leaders. Although the idea is intriguing, it is still
in the developmental stage, Terrell insists.
There are a lot of regional and state-level sports associations
that have regional and state competitions that we would be capable of
hosting. And when you think of the number of people it involves with the
athletes, coaches parents and fans, thats a lot of hotel rooms and
meals at local restaurants, Terrell said. I think its
definitely something that we should look into.
Terrell sees it as a good economic driver. And if we do it right,
we could target these events on off peak weekends when there isnt
much else going on in town.
Terrell said little leagues and amateur athletic organizations would likely
be the ideal types of events to go after. Each organization would operate
their events once here. The sports commission would bid for the events
and then manage the logistics of making it happen.
Terrell cited the Madison Gymnastics World competitions that take place
at the Madison Consolidated High School and at the privately operated
gym. They draw huge crowds of people who come in and spend the entire
weekend here. I think there are other sports out there that we could attract
to help maximize our local hotels.
Terrell said the effort would entail organizing an entity to bid for sports
competitions on a regional scale that would be small enough to stage at
existing facilities in the area. These might include Hanover College,
Madison Consolidated and Southwestern high schools or the city parks department
facilities. It would not involved building a new facility.
Terrell said once here, visitors would have the opportunity of seeing
what else the community has to offer and may return another time to visit
John Staicer, executive director of Historic Madison Inc., said he supports
any effort to promote Madisons historic attractions to potential
new visitors. He said the idea of a sports commission is worth studying
if it helps fill hotel rooms and draw attention to Madison.
Staicer presented the idea to the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
Bureaus board during a recent meeting but added that it is still
only in the discussion stages.
Andy Jugan heads the 4 1/2-year-old Greater Louisville Sports Commission
and advises that any small community such as Madison should first
take a good hard look at your facilities before you go much farther
in creating a sports commission.
For instance, he says it would require at least 10 to 12 fields to hold
even a large softball tournament, and eight to 10 courts for a basketball
Hanover College would be the closest thing to a large facility in the
county, but Jugan said, Im not sure if Hanover College couldnt
market itself to bring in enough outside events to fill whatever facilities
theyve got on their own.
In addition to facilities, the group would have to find a solid funding
source to get an event off the ground, Jugan said. That funding
would have to either come from the economic development organization or
the hotel-motel group, I would suspect because if you dont have
a track record, its really hard to get big corporate companies on
board when youre dealing with an unproven entity.
Louisville started its sports commission in March 2000 and now hosts nearly
40 major events year-round. In addition to soliciting and bidding for
contracts, the Louisville Sports Commission manages the events. Officials
there estimate that the commission has generated $85.6 million in economic
impact of events booked or held since 2000.
Among the recent events was last springs National Association of
Intercollegiate Athletics outdoor championships and marathon, held at
Cardinal Park and Shawnee Park and attracting more than 1,500 athletes
and 2,000 parents and fans. Other Louisville facilities for possible use
by the sports commission include Freedom Hall, Broadbent Arena, Cardinal
Stadium, Papa Johns Stadium and various parks, colleges and schools.
The commission has brought in a variety of sporting events that include
the states high school football championship, an LPGA golf tournament,
a triathlon and collegiate competitions in volleyball, cross country,
tennis, softball, track and field, archery and cheerleading and gymnastics.
In 2007, Louisville will play host to the Summer National Senior Games
and Olympics, one of the largest recurring multi-sports events in the
country and the largest event booked to date by the commission. This will
feature more than 12,500 athletes ages 50 and over. The city also is being
considered by NBC-TV as a possible site for its new Action Sports Tour,
a five-city tour beginning next spring. This will feature skateboarding,
BMX bike competition and freestyle motocross.
Terrell says that comparing the smaller Madison market to Louisville is
unfair because Madison would be seeking much smaller events to match available
facilities. Louisvilles population is 700,000, compared to Jefferson
County, Ind., whose population is only 32,250. The challenges, however,
would be similar, just on a smaller scale, officials say.
To me, its part of a coordinating function to really market
to a segment that is currently not being marketed to, Terrell said.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.