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Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019

Investing in Sports

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Events generate economic impact

After the recent elections, we are reminded it was three years ago that our two cities and two parishes passed the 1.5 percent hotel occupancy tax increase with incredible support from local citizens. The SB Sports Commission is the recipient of a third of the tax, with the Regional Air Service Alliance and the Independence Bowl receiving the other two thirds, equating to about $630,000 for each of the three entities annually.

What has the Sports Commission done to invest our share of the tax revenues? Our team has worked with local, regional and national sports partners to bring in over 100 sporting events annually since 2016. We provide various levels of resources depending on the unique needs of each sports organization. Several ways we assist include scheduling venues; assisting with venue rental fees and rental equipment; contacting local hotels to provide housing blocks for out-of-town visitors; communicating and providing press releases to our local and regional media, along with volunteer and monetary support for select events. The commission also implemented a funding program in 2016 for monetary support that allows for funding of sporting events if it generates a certain level of economic impact to the two parishes.

We have also teamed up with local partners to create or grow existing events like the Red River Balloon Rally, Powerboat Nationals, the Battle on the Hardwood along with SB Holiday College Basketball Classic, to name a few. We owe our success to aligning and engaging businesses and public partners with our sports rights holders and venues, with each mutually investing public and private resources to make these events happen. Moving forward into 2019, we will continue to work with the Shreveport- Bossier community, but not forgetting about some of the tremendous assets our outlying parish communities offer and focus on traditional along with emerging sports such as corn hole, e-sports and wrestling, which provide competitions that are attractive to out-of-town athletes and locals alike. We are also reaching out to local events and festivals to determine opportunities to add sports competitions to their existing event. Sporting events are only limited to venues that meet the needs of the sport and their availability, and it is exciting that the two cities and two parishes are investing in renovating and expanding facilities like the following exciting projects:

• The expansion at Cargill Park between CABOSA and their partnership with the city of Shreveport and the Airport Authority. When complete, this investment will double the number of soccer fields, which allows for larger out-of-town tournaments and aid with the massive growth of youth and adult soccer locally.

• The city of Bossier City and its planned investment at Tinsley Field and surrounding parks, which include upgrading and expanding facilities to once again provide the opportunity for larger out-of-town tournaments while also improving play for the local leagues that utilize the facilities.

• The return of the Mudbugs to George’s Pond at the Hirsch Coliseum has not only brought back hockey and ice skating but also provides a renovated facility for events like Taekwondo Nationals and the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA held for the first time in 20 years. Many other venues have been developed and are in discussions, and other communities are even looking at retail buildings that are being vacated and could provide sports organizations with more affordable/free space to run tournaments and other programs. Every potential sporting event and venue is open for debate if we get creative and entrepreneurial, but teaming up can make these opportunities a reality.

Our goal is to continue to utilize the resources the community has provided to invest in the sports industry to grow the economic impact and quality of life and fitness of our citizens. If you have any ideas, please feel free to email me at kwells@sbsports.org or call me at 222- 9391, and let’s team up in 2019 to make it a reality.

Kelly Wells is the executive director of the of the Shreveport- Bossier Sports Commission.

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