Last spring, the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau set out to bring more sports-related events to Galveston. Since that time, the results have been impressive.

In just under two years, CVB staff has brought 17 new sporting events to the island that generated more than 10,000 hotel room nights, plus an economic impact of more than $11 million, based on the number of attendees and hotel average daily rates.

The concerted effort to grow the sports tourism sector began last March when the CVB named a staff member, Bryan Kunz, to be the organization’s new sports and events manager. In addition, the CVB, with cooperation from the city of Galveston and the Galveston Economic Development Partnership, hosted a sports tourism symposium in April 2016.

Several of the sports tourism experts in attendance took time to tour the island and assess existing facilities like baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, convention centers and the beach. Donald Schumacher, then the executive director for the National Associations of Sports Commissions, advised city and CVB staff on the best ways to move forward to attract additional sporting events to the island.

Schumacher echoed the sentiment of CVB and city officials to make the most of Galveston’s existing inventory of facilities instead of building new ones. He also advised officials that if and when they do decide to build new sports facilities to make sure the needs of Galveston residents are considered first.

“‘If you build it, they will come,’ may have worked for the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ but that movie was fiction,” Schumacher said in March. “It doesn’t work like that.”

This conservative approach has paid off. In 2016 and 2017, the CVB lured eight Fast-pitch America Softball Association (FASA) tournaments to Galveston. FASA has nine dates on hold for events in Galveston in 2018, including a weeklong national tournament slated for June.

The CVB also made use of East Beach bringing new volleyball, Beach Ultimate and beach soccer tournaments. Last June, the CVB created a Beach Sports Fest that combined the three sports drawing more than 1,600 competitors, plus families and spectators.

Moving forward, the CVB plans to continue to expand sports tourism efforts with an emphasis on developing additional marketing assets, creating a local sponsorship program to offset event costs and give local businesses exposure and working to increase the number of adaptive sporting events held on the island.

Park board meetings are open to the public and the public may address the board of trustees during the meetings. Park board meetings are typically held on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. at 601 Tremont St. If you are interested in seeing a park board issue discussed in this column, or if you have any questions, please send them my way. I can be reached at mbassett@galvestonparkboard.org.

Mary Beth Bassett is the public relations coordinator for the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Park Board of Trustees.

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