I’m headed out west today to Columbia, MO (yes, coming all the way from Columbia, MD – it’s like a tale of two cities, but totally different). We’re going out to present a proposal to help the city assess their opportunities in the area of youth sports. Youth sports tourism continues to grow in the US, and the importance of youth sports within communities has become more and more important.
When I was a kid, it seemed we primarily played sports just to get us out of the house in some kind of organized manner, and our parents would show up to cheer us on when they could. It’s a whole different world out there now – parents encourage their kids to focus on sports as a way to get a college scholarship and often put them into year-round training programs to excel. They drive for hours and fly all over the country to participate in advanced training and tournaments – any way to get ahead. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just different.
On a municipal level, the opportunities for youth sports are significant as well. Locally, it’s a great way to enhance a community. Here in Columbia, MD, we have a great local soccer complex with grass and artificial turf fields that are used year-round. Any weekend day is like a carnival with kids coming in and out throughout the day, not to mention tournament weekends when they have to bus you over from the park across the street. It’s one of the factors that helps Money Magazine consistently judge the town one of the best places to live. And, from a tourism perspective, these venues can generate serious revenue. A team of 12 or 13 kids, with their families of course, coming into town for a weekend means hotel rooms, restaurants, tourism, etc. It’s important to be able to compete facility-wise, as that tends to drive the decision-making process for the event organizers. Of course, facilities cost money to build and maintain, so making sure your town is well positioned to get your piece of the pie is tremendously important.
We recently completed a study on youth sports for the City of Fort Wayne, IN. It’s a very different type of marketing than we conduct for a corporate client, and frankly, it feels good. Helping a city make these types of decisions and create value for residents is a different outcome than trying to sell products, memberships or services. It feels like I’m able to use my skill set to help a municipality improve by providing opportunities for their citizens. That’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity to do it again for another city. And hope we get more chances in the future as well – each situation and jurisdiction presents unique challenges, but the focus always seems to be on creating a stronger community.
So, Columbia, MO – here I come. Bring on the BBQ.