The week after returning from IEDC in Indianapolis, I headed to the Cornhusker State for the 2019 Nebraska Tourism Conference hosted by Visit Nebraska. This was a big deal to me as I spent a great deal of my youth visiting relatives in Lincoln. My father went to the University of Nebraska, and I have been a lifelong Cornhusker fan.
My trip itinerary had me flying into Lincoln then joining my Nebraska tourism hosts for the drive west to North Platte. If you’ve never been to the state, I can you tell you it’s very flat. That’s fine unless you’re getting hit with 70mph crosswinds on the interstate. Then it’s terrifying. Fortunately, we made it safely to our destination, but the winds decided to stick around for the duration of the conference. It made for a blustery and chilly visit.
On the opening day of the conference, I had the honor of leading a round-table discussion for Sports Nebraska, the statewide collective of sports commissions and CVB sports sales managers. Co-moderators included Jim Steele, former South Sioux City Chamber President, as well as Derek Bombeck, Sales Development Manager of the Lincoln CVB and president of Sports Nebraska. In addition to discussing the state of Nebraska sports tourism, the round-table discussion also served as a learning platform for communities beginning to delve into the sports realm.
On Day 2, I led a breakout session, “Sports Tourism as Economic Development.” During this presentation, I was able to expound upon many of the concepts that we had discussed during the previous day’s Nebraska Sports meeting. Lincoln and Omaha are widely recognized as major destinations for national events, but it was apparent that smaller communities also recognize the benefits of recruiting events and tournaments.
The smaller Nebraska communities are capitalizing on natural assets over sports complexes while keeping up with national trends, as evidenced by the number of gravel cycling events popping up on the miles of dirt roads that cover the state. The trip to North Platte was excellent. I’d be remiss not to mention the incredible hospitality of the Visit Nebraska team, especially conference organizer Callie Austad.