Summer may be looming, but forgive United States Sports Congress President Lou Mengsol if his mind is thinking less about barbecues and more about the chilly month of December.
That’s because the annual US Sports Congress, an event Mengsol plays a pivotal role in, convenes Dec. 4-6 in luminous Mesa, Arizona.
“It’s going to be great,” Mengsol said. “We always try to go to nicer destinations every year and Mesa will definitely be that.”
Entering its 11th year, the US Sports Congress has established itself as one of the premier sports conference destinations in the country. It is held each December and attracts the leading decision-makers from the amateur sports world. Attendees of the invitation-only event include executives who represent sports governing bodies, rights holders and destinations that are looking to host sporting events and trade suppliers.
Sports tourism is an $8 billion industry, and with sports commissions and convention and business bureaus relying so heavily on sports tourism business, shows like the congress are invaluable to networkers trying to organize events or learn about trends. With rights holders representing thousands of amateur athletes, the congress helps unite them with locales suitable to host their events.
“Facilities and rights holders both have very different sorts of business models,” Mengsol said. “We provide an opportunity for knowledgeable industry leaders, be it destinations, facilities or rights holders, to work together and create new relationships. It’s a win-win.”
The primary reason the congress has gained such a foothold in the sports market is its cozy feel. According to Mengsol, the congress is unique among industry shows because of its 1 to 1 ratio of destinations to rights holders. This one-on-one model has proven highly successful as a recent survey of congress attendees showed 94 percent booked an event as a result of meetings or contacts they made at the conference.
“People like that we have such an intimate event,” Mengsol said. “We like to give attendees a lot of time to get to know one another. It can create a situation where people can say ‘you have an event, we have facilities, let’s find out how we can work together.’
“When we created the congress, we wanted to provide more quality time for our attendees to discuss issues,” Mengsol said. “It is a really different show based on our numbers alone. Many shows have a ratio of 6 or 7 (suppliers) to 1 (buyer). Larger shows can even be higher. What happens is rights holders are outnumbered and can feel like a piece of red meat in a lion’s cage. Other events have been described as speed dating in that often (destinations) will only get 10 minutes of someone’s time. The Sports Congress keeps the ratio 1 to 1.”
The congress is on schedule to attract a crowd of around 125 attendees this year, which Mengsol estimates will be a 25 percent growth from a year ago. This is steady with the convention’s previous surge in popularity, considering last year’s event grew 30 percent from the year prior.
The three-day show will feature workshops and roundtable discussions, as well as presentations from industry leaders. One such presentation on the docket is a discussion about technology’s impact in sports presented by Under Armour and Maryland Sports.
Another major selling point of the conference is its location, which changes yearly but is always enticing. In the past, the congress has taken place in such esteemed locales as San Diego, Las Vegas, Fort Myers, Florida and Savannah, Georgia, to name a few.
Mesa figures to add to that illustrious roll call with its average December high temperature hovering around 67 degrees and it being home to several alluring sports facilities including Major League Baseball spring training sites for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s. Not surprisingly, Mesa also features a slew of excellent golf facilities, including Longbow Golf Club, Toka Sticks and Dobson Ranch.
“Mesa will be a great destination,” Mengsol said. “There’s a lot more to the area than just desert landscape. Just one example is the Cubs’ spring training facility is located right across from the (Sheraton Mesa) hotel (where the congress is taking place).”
As the architect of the congress, Mengsol is proud of the event’s success and expects this year’s show to continue to strengthen relationships.
“There is a high level of trust that our attendees have placed in us,” Mengsol said. They instill the same amount of trust in other US Sports Congress attendees. That leads to a higher level of cooperation and a higher level of productivity when people are comfortable with each other.”
More information can be found at www.ussportscongress.com.