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The Boston Herald

In a city that celebrates sports, Mayor Martin J. Walsh is creating an office to lobby for high-profile events such as the X Games, professional all-star games and even the Final Four to come to Boston, a move that could bring in big tourism dollars.

'Boston is such a sports town, and (sports) is such a way of attracting tourists,' Walsh told the Herald. 'I want to use these opportunities for us to capitalize on these tourism dollars.'

The Office of Sports, Entertainment and Special Events will operate under John Barros and the city's economic development department. Walsh said he is eyeing events such as the X Games and professional sports all-star games, as well as bringing hockey's Winter Classic back to Boston. Tony Nunziante, acting director of the former Arts, Tourism and Special Events office, will run the new office.

Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said sports events can have a significant impact on the economy.

'The major league events, or these huge events like the NCAA Final Four, these are the kinds of things that could really propel the city's industry forward,' Moscaritolo said. 'That's where you get a lot of spending impact, you get a lot of bang for your buck.'

Still, landing the Final Four may be a reach. It's been held in domed football stadiums for at least 10 years, something Boston - or even New England - doesn't have. Boston hosted the Sweet Sixteen in 2012. Moscaritolo said playing host to earlier rounds of the tournament is more likely.

Walsh said a marquee event would not put a strain on the city's amenities.

'We have the hotels, we have the restaurants,' Walsh said. 'That's the beautiful thing, we have all the infrastructure.'

The U.S. Figure Skating Championship was held in Boston in January, and Walsh said attending that event sparked the idea for the sports-focused office.

Next year, the Frozen Four - the NCAA men's hockey tournament - will be held at TD Garden.

Moscaritolo, who has led bids for the Frozen Four and the Women's Final Four, said a focused city office will give the Hub an edge with the leagues and organizations evaluating cities for their high-profile events.

'You rise to the top,' Moscaritolo said. 'This is a broad, citywide effort that has the mayor's stamp of approval.

April 2, 2014

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