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Surprise, AZ is located just on the northwest side of Phoenix and February is a great time to visit. Spring Training is just getting started and Surprise hosts a couple of MLB teams as they get ready for the season.
Surprise has been growing very quickly and has some fantastic terrain in the area for outdoor activity. The White Tank Mountains are just a few miles directly west of the city and is a magnet for hiking and mountain biking. There are a few organized events in that space, but we were able to talk to the city a bit more about how we can link their downtown to activity in that open space. We had some great ideas that we presented to the Mayor, City Councilmen, and the sports director and we hope that we are able to execute some of them. The city is eager to diversify in the sports tourism space and they have all the assets to make that happen.
Side note—Surprise is home to one of the best taco places on earth. Who knew? Next time you are in the Surprise area, check out La Bamba Mexican Grill.
Albuquerque was the first stop on my road trip to the southwest, and I was able to drop in and visit my friends at the Albuquerque Sports Commission.
They were setting up for the Indoor Track National Championships inside the Albuquerque Convention Center so I was able to see that setup. Quite the show with the banked, indoor running track and the seating for the fans—good stuff! This is an event that they have held there for many years and brings a good many people into the city.
They are starting to discuss hosting more endurance sport events in the fantastic open spaces that Albuquerque is blessed with, so we had a great conversation about what we are doing in Colorado Springs with the Pikes Peak APEX. There was a realization after hosting the Senior Games that outdoor events were a great fit for the area and it was good to be able to sit down and brainstorm some ideas. Looking forward to getting back to Albuquerque and talking more with the Parks Department and other government agencies!
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.
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.