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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

The Greater Columbus Sports Commission has earned the city's thanks for working hard over the past dozen years to show off this city to sporting officials and persuading them to choose Columbus for big events.

Signs that momentum is building are the increasing number of high-profile sporting contests that have taken place here recently and that are scheduled:

In October, the Presidents Cup, a prestigious international golf tournament to which millions of fans tune in, took place at Muirfield Village Golf Club. In addition, the USA vs. Mexico qualifier match for soccer's World Cup was held at Crew Stadium in late September.

The NHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition will be held Jan. 24-25, 2015, at Nationwide Arena. The second and third rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament next March also will be here.

With nine full-time sports-commission employees and an annual budget of $1.8 million, Columbus gets great bang for the buck. Much of the commission's budget comes from private sources, including sponsorships, while the rest is from the hotel bed tax. The commission claims that more than 240 new sporting events have come to Columbus since the Sports Commission first hit the ground running in 2002, generating an estimated $285 million in visitor spending.

Indianapolis' experience shows what a talented commission can do for a city. Its Indiana Sports Corp. has been around since 1979, a lot longer than its counterparts in many U.S. cities. It landed the 2012 Super Bowl; six NCAA men's Final Four basketball games and another one in 2015; and two NCAA women's Final Four games, with another in 2016.

Indianapolis' staff of 24 works with an annual budget of between $3 million and $7 million. In return, the Super Bowl alone brought in $176 million in visitor spending, and the attention Indianapolis received (111.3 million viewers tuned into the TV broadcast) was priceless.

Likewise, Columbus is smart to invest in marketing the city's image to sports governing bodies, and it can take its example from Indianapolis' success.

In mid-May, Columbus' sports commission took officials from USA Track & Field on a site visit. An associate director, Desiree Friedman, told The Dispatch that she was impressed by how quickly one can get from the airport to Downtown and at the abundance of restaurants and hotels within walking distance from the convention center.

She had been unfamiliar with the city, assuming it it more suburban than urban and isn't especially walkable. Those are the kinds of image perceptions the commission staff members have to correct.

"We have our work cut out to prove ourselves," said Linda Logan, commission executive director.

The commission's job is made easier by the fact that Columbus has a lot to offer, with more developing all the time. But it still takes good salespeople who believe in this city and can enumerate its strengths and make others see its charms, too.

Next week, the Association of Chief Executives for Sport -- which includes the leaders of about 30 sports governing bodies, including USA Gymnastics and USA Basketball -- will be holding its annual meeting in town and checking out all that Columbus has to offer.

What a great opportunity to get on multiple radar screens. Much luck to the sports commission staff in making the most of that time.


May 28, 2014




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