Matthew Russell makes his way through the chute to win the 2017 Sunbelt Bakery IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga triathlon presented by McKee A Family Bakery in downtown Chattanooga on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Photo by Dan Henry |

Were you downtown Sunday?

It was glorious. And inspiring. When someone is covering mile 67-plus on a Sunday morning while you have a tummy grumbling from a Waffle House breakfast, well, that's humbling.

Standing on the Walnut Street Bridge as my kids cheered the leaders during the home stretch of the Ironman 70.3, it made me proud to call Chattanooga home.

It also made me think. It made me think about the heavy lifting and the campaigning it takes to get events like this in our city. And knowing the way these events fill our hotels — if you haven't noticed, more hotel rooms are coming downtown by the day — and our restaurants.

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Jay Greeson

It also made me remember that our city has hosted a great number of great events. Back in the day there were numerous slow-pitch softball tournaments. There were college sports tournament events, from SEC and NCAA women's basketball to FCS football.

There also was Spring Fling, the glorious high school state championship festival that started here almost a quarter century ago.

The Spring Fling had completed its ninth year in Chattanooga when it pulled up shop and headed to Middle Tennessee. Yes, the event birthed here moved like other TSSAA events including girls' soccer and wrestling. Other events, such as the Tour de Georgia, have not found long-term homes here.

Those unforeseen departures should give all of us great pause. With each passing year, the tourism dollars mean more and more to the city and Hamilton County. And if you think otherwise, when was the last time you stayed in a hotel room within a stone's throw of Ross's Landing?


These thoughts should give all of us pause as the Hamilton County Commission weighs its task of figuring which needs get scrapped and which get rewarded in the budgeting process.

Bob Doak and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have become a lightning rod in some budget discussions.

The bureau received almost $8 million in funding last year. Some have argued enough is enough, that some of that money could be better spent elsewhere, and that the bureau is wasting taxpayer money.

Hey, I commend the conversation to make sure there is no waste in government spending. That's a smart discussion for any and every governmental body, whether we are talking about the city, school system or public library.

Check the books. But remember that the Convention and Visitors Bureau is the marketing arm of an increasingly powerful economic engine in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.

Speaking of that, where's the city on helping fund the CVB? Yes, its end of hotel-motel tax collections has been committed for more than a decade to fixing the riverfront. When is that project going to be completed, and when can the city start helping fund the tourism efforts? (And this link should not be forgotten, people.)

But today, the contrast between the completion of the latest Chattanooga Ironman and start of the 15th Spring Fling — not being held in Chattanooga — should not be lost on any of us.

Nor should the simple fact that we have to spend some money to make a lot of money.

Cutting too deeply into CVB funds would be the definition of penny wise and pound foolish.

Contact Jay Greeson at and 423-757-6343.