By Marty Finley
Source: Louisville Business First
When the Louisville Sports Commission looks at the national sports business landscape as 2014 ticks away, it notices one big trend: More competition.
Karl Schmitt, executive director of the sports commission, said Louisville is competing for events with more communities than ever, as the sports industry recovered quicker from the recession than other industries did.
In many cases, Louisville is competing with much larger cities for events, he said.
“There’s more communities doing it, and they’re spending more resources,” Schmitt said in an interview. “So the competition is stiffer.”
He said communities also are investing more in infrastructure, both in hospitality facilities and sports facilities, from smaller niche locations to major arenas.
“Facilities, to us, is everything,” said Greg Fante, director of sports development for the commission, “It gives you competitive advantage.”
The quality of facilities, he said, is one of the key factors event holders consider when evaluating a city.
Also, Schmitt said, more cities are starting to develop a comprehensive partnership model in which city agencies work together and speak with one voice when bidding on events from a large group, such as the NCAA.
To stay competitive the sports commission has further embraced its relationship with the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, the local hospitality industry and area businesses to package Louisville’s greatest assets. Schmitt said these include the city’s central location, which is within a day’s drive for much of the United States, therefore ruling out the need for many agencies to put their teams on a plane.
Another trend the commission is tracking is the willingness of other cities to start and manage their own sporting events. As an example, many cities are launching fun runs because they often are less expensive than contracting with a major brand, such as The Color Run or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Schmitt said.
Schmitt believes the city has its own premiere event of the future in the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon, which was held on Oct. 25 and attracted thousands of athletes.
He estimates the half marathon has the opportunity to grow to 15,000 or 20,000 competitors eventually as the city markets the entire bourbon experience in Louisville and the region.
But Schmitt said more ammunition is needed, and he pointed to the possibilities a local option sales tax would reap. As Business First has reported, Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, has made the local option sales tax a major legislative priorityin 2015, and it is expected to be a big issue before the Kentucky General Assembly this year
The state’s approval of the measure would allow communities to vote on levying a special sales tax to raise dedicated revenue for specific community projects.
Schmitt said having that type of revenue could allow the city to think big in terms of sports business development, and Fante said the revenue could be used to improve and renovate deteriorating sports facilities and build new ones.
“Sometimes it takes a game changer of that magnitude to keep you in the game,” Schmitt said.