Tim Morgan new Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee chief

photo Sports Committee president Tim Morgan
Arkansas-SEMO Live Blog

He wasn't allowed to bring the Carolina Panthers with him, but Tim Morgan is arriving in Chattanooga with nearly a decade of sports management skills from the Queen City.

Morgan has been hired as the new president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee after spending the past eight years as the sports sales manager of Visit Charlotte, the sales and marketing division of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. His stint with the CRVA followed four-plus years in public relations with the NFL's Panthers.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the ins and outs of Chattanooga and really entrenching myself in this community the way I was in Charlotte," Morgan said. "Working for an 800-pound gorilla like Charlotte in that region, there are definitely wonderful things you can experience. By coming to a smaller community and using the experience that I've gained in the sports tourism world, I think I can be an asset and complement the wonderful things that are already being conducted in Chattanooga.

"Chattanooga is very strong in softball and very strong in tennis, and I know there are other opportunities out there that I'm looking forward to finding more about."

Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO Bob Doak hired Morgan. The CVB has overseen Sports Committee operations since 2004.

Morgan, who starts his new job Aug. 20, becomes the third Sports Committee president since its inception in 1992. Merrill Eckstein served as president from the beginning until the spring of 2009, when he left to become executive director of Finley Stadium.

Scott Smith was elevated to replace Eckstein and served as Sports Committee president for more than three years until leaving July 31 to pursue other interests.

"Our goal, and this is no negative reflection on anybody who has been here previously, is to take it to the next level," Sports Committee board chairman Rick Thompson said. "We need to do a nice job of honing in on all the low-hanging fruit we've got, like softball tournaments and things like that, but we also need somebody who has the knowledge to go out and recruit other sporting events.

"Tim is really a salesperson, and what we want him to do is come in and see where we can improve, identify what the next level of events are that we can attract, and go out there, network and go get them."

The Sports Committee helped generate a record economic impact of $26.5 million in 2011. Leading the way to last year's total were the Head of the Hooch rowing regatta ($4.8 million), the Amateur Softball Association 16-under girls' fastpitch national tournament ($3.0 million), the NSA Class "A" girls' fastpitch World Series ($2.48 million) and the Athletic Championships Cheerleading ($2.42 million).

Yet he also arrives at a time when the city no longer has featured college events such as the Football Championship Subdivision title game, the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament, the Southern Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments and NCAA women's basketball early-round tournament sites.

Such events did not always generate the financial windfall to match the Head of the Hooch -- the 2009 FCS title game lost money, in fact -- but they did place Chattanooga before a national cable audience.

"In my opinion, perceptions can be changed," Morgan said. "It may take a little bit of time, but they can definitely be changed. I don't think it's a matter of reinventing yourself as it is rekindling the flame and bringing some of these sporting events back to Chattanooga, which I think is possible.

"It all goes back to the relationships I can come in and develop."

Morgan wants to "understand Chattanooga inside and out" before figuring out what events should be targeted. He hopes to establish as strong a relationship with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as he did with UNC-Charlotte, though he realizes he might have to be patient with UTC going through changes with the chancellor and athletic director.

Married with two daughters, Morgan is a 2003 graduate of the University of Alabama and remains a devout Crimson Tide fan. He does, however, appreciate the impact former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has provided the Panthers.

"Cam has definitely made it fun to go back to Panthers games," he said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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