I was in Denver for Outdoor Retailer this week. With the January show combining the winter and summer shows, this was a pretty big convention. The outdoor industry is alive and well as this was a pretty packed week. 

Mostly it is all of the cool outdoor gear that you can walk around and drool at, but with all of the ski stuff combined with the summer sports it was quite a collection of companies. I was able to catch up with a few old friends with some companies that show off gear from all seasons like Giro, Marmot, POC and Scott.  I was also able to meet the CEO of Osprey, a Colorado-based pack company who I had only met through email in the past.

For most people, this is the only time the industry catches up face-to-face while communicating via phone and email the rest of the year.  t is a chance to see all the new gear coming out during the next year and share a drink with some folks from a company you may work closely with but remotely.

I took in a couple presentations with the best one being one about the strain on our outdoor spaces with panelists including the Outdoor Alliance from Maine and the Colorado Tourism Office. It was a very interesting conversation about dispersion of visitors to parks and outdoor spaces and what agencies do to make sure they have the resources necessary to keep up these spaces. Great insight from some pros who have been fighting the fight. I was also able to grab lunch with Matthew Payne, a good friend of mine for many years and the CEO of the Denver Sports Commission. Lots going on in Denver and they have set a pretty high bar for themselves! Definitely looking forward to coming back to Outdoor Retailer for the summer show in June.

2020 Georgia Sports Annual Meeting

On January 16, I had the honor of moderating a discussion, “The Future of Georgia Sports,” at the annual Georgia Sports meeting in Augusta, Georgia. Georgia Sports is the statewide coalition of sports commissions and CVB’s who promote sports tourism in their respective communities. The invitation came from my old friends, Brian Graham, CEO of the Augusta Sports Council, and Georgia Sports President, Stacey Dickson, President of the Lake Lanier CVB. As a former member of the organization, it was an honor to be invited for this discussion.

Many states have sports tourism coalitions, and Georgia is no different. These groups often partner with state tourism or economic development entities for the purpose of promoting statewide sports assets. Coop marketing opportunities provide cost-effective means of advertising, and, while communities may compete for events, it is better that the business be kept within the state, as opposed to it going elsewhere in the country.

I really enjoyed this presentation. Since I’m no longer with a sports commission or CVB, I don’t get to see this group as much as I would like. Many of the attendees were old friends, and some were existing clients. It was a neat perspective coming into this as an “outsider.” And I hope that I was able to provide some valuable input. Since leaving the sports commission/CVB world over three years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to work with major metropolitan areas, as well as small rural towns. The makeup of these Sports Strategies clients isn’t unlike the makeup of the towns and counties across Georgia. I hope the wisdom gained with working with this cross-section of communities can help my old friends and peers across my home state.

Augusta Gaelic Sports hosted their annual “Azalea Cup”

Augusta Gaelic Sports hosted their annual “Azalea Cup” hurling competition at Sweetwater Park in Thomson-McDuffie County on November 9, 2019. The event was secured by Sports Strategies through a collaboration with Visit Thomson and Thomson-McDuffie Recreation. The tournament attracted teams from Augusta and Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Charleston and Greenville, SC.

Hurling is a team sport of Gaelic-Irish origin, and it is considered the “fastest game on grass.” It combines elements of lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, and hockey for fast-paced, physical action. I was introduced to the sport through my neighbor who introduced me to the Augusta Gaelic Sports Club. After learning they hosted an annual tournament, we began discussions about bring the competition to Thomson.

Sweetwater Park proved to be an excellent venue for the tournament. Having two pitches set up side-by-side allowed teams and spectators to place their tents between the two fields and never have to move. It was great for spectating and allowed for a genuine ease of managing the day.

Following the tournament, the teams enjoyed a post-event celebration at the Highrail in Downtown Thomson. It was a magnificent location to finish an excellent day. People ate, beer flowed, and bagpipes were played to the merriment of everyone. Seriously. Plans are in the works to make 2020 an even bigger deal.

With Derek Bombeck and Derek Bonds at Memorial Stadium

I left the conference in North Platte and headed to Lincoln, where I had the privilege to spend a few days and take in a game.

During the visit I was able to meet again with Derek Bombeck of the Lincoln CVB, as well as Jeff Maul, the CVB executive director. Following our meeting, Derek arranged for a tour of Memorial Stadium at the University of Nebraska. As a lifelong Cornhusker fan, it was a dream come true. I’d never been to a Nebraska game, so to be able to stand in the middle of the field at Memorial Stadium was a real kick in the feels. The tour ended with us standing at the top of the stadium watching the test run of flyover for the next day’s game. It was a remarkable way to end an amazing experience. I will be forever indebted to Derek Bombek and Derek Bonds of the University of Nebraska’s athletic department for fulfilling a big point on the bucket list.

For gameday, my cousin, Jeff, drove up from Kansas to take me to the game against Indiana. Through the generosity of the Lincoln CVB, I was invited to the Governors Tailgate at the Governor’s mansion prior to the game. Through the generosity of an attendee at my breakout session in North Platte, we were also invited to the Nebraska Champion’s Club tailgate. It would have been nice to beat Indiana, but after a week of stellar mid-western hospitality, there was no room for complaints.