published Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

City sports bureau seeking pitchman

Chattanooga's sports bureau will start searching for its own all-star in January.

The Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will look for a new head of sports next year in an attempt to expand the city's growing sports tourism.

January sporting events

Athletic Cheer and Dance National Championships Jan. 13 to 16 is projected to draw 6,000 people with an estimated local economic impact of more than $2.2 million.

The Southern Scuffle Wresting tournament for 2012 at UTC is projected to draw 900 people on Tuesday with an economic impact estimate of $270,000

Thunder Nationals sponsored by Field Motor Sports from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6 is projected to draw 50 people with an economic impact of $45,000.

Source: Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

"We're looking for somebody who's had a lot of experience selling, understanding how to promote a city," said Bob Doak, president and CEO of the group. "Somebody who's had experience dealing with large sporting events and has a lot of connections in the sporting world."

With boat races, triathlons and softball and baseball tournaments, sports already are a huge driver for Chattanooga's tourism economy. The sports department shake-up is aimed at heightening that focus, Doak said.

"I haven't seen the sports world as slowing down at all," said Scott Smith, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee. "I think if anything, it may be growing."

Smith will move to a different role within the bureau, likely focusing on staging and operating events. He said he's content with the change, and now will be able to focus on his favorite part of the job.

"I've always just been an organizer, a planner," he said. "You see the fruits of what you've done in front of you. You see it went smoothly and this worked perfectly as opposed to some other things where maybe you're just looking at numbers."

Smith expects to stay busy in his new role. Chattanooga's central location to Knoxville, Nashville and Atlanta makes the city an obvious place in which area teams can compete, he said. The Scenic City also has quality facilities and family-friendly entertainment, making it more attractive to visitors, he said.

"With this economy, people are going to cut out a lot of things but they're not going to cut out their kids playing sports," he said. "Our bread and butter is definitely the youth-related events."

Adult sports bring in competitors, maybe some spouses, Smith explained, but youth sports pull the whole family. That helps events such as the two 200-plus team youth softball tournaments the Scenic City hosted this year bring $3 million each into the city.

Two years ago, the bureau had record-setting sports numbers, he said. Even after the loss of the NCAA Division I football championship at Finley Stadium two years ago, Smith expects to set a new record as 2011 revenue is totaled, thanks largely to those two $3 million softball tournaments.

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.

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December 28, 2011 at 4:45 a.m.
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