The sports event business will continue to grow for those willing to adapt.
The tournament sports and special events business is booming across America with communities investing in venue developments and tax incentives to lure tourism dollars. The result, as with any boom, has brought out a lot of naysayers with doom and gloom predictions of the future of youth sports and event tourism. They remind me of a phrase I heard years ago, “Economists have correctly predicted 20 of the last two depressions.”
The reality is that we are in a boom and those folks who get left behind will be the ones who don’t adjust to the competitive forces squeezing on their traditional businesses. If you represent a destination or sports event venue in this day and age, the major issue you need to concern yourself with is how to identify your competitive niche and how to market it effectively.
The days of expecting repeat business are over. New field complexes, arenas, tracks, and convention spaces along with the development of new events and sports have created amazing opportunities for those willing to adapt to the marketplace. They also create a threat to those who can’t recognize the changes taking place.
In my touring last year, I had the opportunity to visit Yakima, Washington, and spend some time with Rich Austin of the Yakima Valley Sports Commission. Rich is a seasoned veteran of the industry and understands the financial rewards obtainable when you fill your venues with properly targeted events. He yields to the fact that Yakima will rarely get an opportunity to host a national event because of its proximity to major airports. However, he recognized the central location of Yakima to the region and he aggressively pursues those regional events and creates a service level that effectively accommodates that audience. He has honed his target market so successfully that he will host more than 400 events in 2017 drawing tourism revenue of more than $40 million dollars to his area. Rich knows his niche! With that success, Yakima is building a new complex with fields and an arena that will give Rich even more options in the future.
To those who fear this facility development phase is heading for disaster … I say rubbish! The Pew Report forecast the population growth of the United States will rise from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million in 2050. This boom we are experiencing is just the beginning of a new phase of activity. Prepare for battle, though. There will be more competition than ever vying for all these events and tournaments with all types of new arrangements and contract deals. Get with the program or get out of the way!