As the executive director of Maryland Sports – The Sports Commission for the State of Maryland, and the former chair of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), I can tell you first-hand the sports event industry is extremely competitive and that competition keeps getting tougher and tougher, especially at the amateur sports level.

More than 500 destinations across the United States have highly motivated and designated sales teams that have declared the sports tourism industry a driving force to their vibrant economic story. And, they are all looking for quality business leads through sports. These leads, and a well-positioned and successful bid, accomplish my coined statement: “Heads in beds (lodging), food in bellies (restaurants and grocery), gas in cars (transportation), credit cards and cash on counters (retail) and butts in seats (family/friends/fans).”

The basis of the statement above is how the industry is measured, not just here in Maryland, but industry-wide. Amateur sports are big business, not just kids’ games anymore. It’s a $9.45 billion (up 5% over 2014) industry with more than 26 million visitors (up 3.5% over 2014) entertained in the U.S. in 2015 and is more competitive than ever.

Maryland and Howard County are no different. County government and tourism officials recognize the importance of pursuing and hosting amateur sporting events of all sizes and at all levels of competition.

A Team Effort

Over the past seven years, Maryland Sports has engaged in more than $1 billion in event recruitment efforts with its TEAM Maryland partners. Together they have secured more than $650 million in hosted and future hosting opportunities in economic impact since 2008. As reported recently, over the course of an 18-month window, Maryland Sports touched 230-plus events throughout Maryland at some level, generating more than $241 million in direct spending for the local economy with minimum to no taxpayer dollars invested. However, this is only the beginning.

Howard County Tourism and Promotion’s (HCTP) leadership, participation at recommended tradeshows and a dedicated workforce have impacted the sports tourism industry in a positive way. Each year event owners get to determine where events are held, and each year the team at HCTP has to lead the way, along with HCTP’s partners, to ensure their return is imminent.

To date, Howard County is competing well against competitors with deeper checkbooks, competitors with more aggressive sales approaches, competitors with more available venue accessibility; however the tides in the competitive industry could and will change, and it will happen quickly.

Howard County needs to remain vigilant and assertive in the market, and focused and relevant in the industry. It needs to implement and execute its amateur sports plan to a T. But be confident that there is a strategy, a plan will be implemented, focus will be maintained, and most importantly, greater success in the amateur sports market will be achieved in the years to come.

Good Publicity

In a recent TEAM Maryland profile submission in the Sports Business Journal, the beat of Howard County Sports was well-articulated in the following paragraph.

“In the heart of Howard County beats a growing sports destination, as week after week soccer players, cyclists, triathletes and many other athletes journey to places like Centennial Park and Covenant Park. At Centennial, athletes arrive in droves for events like IronGirl Columbia or Columbia Triathlon to name a few. Across the road, amateur soccer players from around the country arrive to play in tournaments like SAC Columbia Invitational or Tottenham Hotspur America Trophy. Covenant has also been one of the training sites for CONCACAF Golf Cup. Howard County is also home of another gem: Merriweather Post Pavilion where Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead once played and current music stars make regular visits to perform. The County also has hundreds of miles of cleared hiking trails and tremendous park settings. Howard County is Where Maryland Comes Together for Sports!”

Howard County’s résumé of hosting quality amateur sports events is quite good; however, it is only the beginning of what could be extremely impressive as more event owners are seeking out the robust facility inventory the county has to offer. It is exciting to see what the future has to offer TEAM Maryland partner Howard County.

For more information about how these events are impacting Maryland, see Maryland Sports’ direct spending calculator and analysis of a small subset of these events and how they were measured. The report can be found at: www.marylandsports.us/sites/default/files/MDSportsSurvey_site.pdf.

Terry Hasseltine, CSEE, is executive director of Maryland Sports – The Sports Commission for the State of Maryland. He can be reached at 410-223-4158 or thasseltine@MarylandSports.us.