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Messages from the President

Duluth's Competitive Edge in Sports Marketing - February

By: Anna Tanski, President/CEO | February 8, 2015

This year as my son's hockey season winds down, comes the bittersweet realization this may well be the finale to my time as a hockey mom. Transitioning our kids to the next life stage brings a wide range of emotions as we celebrate what they've accomplished and prepare them for uncertainty the next phase holds.

Hectic practice schedules, travelling to tournaments and cheering at games defines the typical parental experience regardless of which activity their child participates in. An ever expanding array of youth sports and activities are growing in popularity, providing greater opportunities for students to participate and compete. Lacrosse, dance, archery, trap shooting, martial arts, academic competitions and robotics are exploding. According to FIRST, the organizer of the largest robotics competition in the country held under one roof (DECC) there are now more robotics teams in Minnesota than hockey teams!

Adaptive sports are emerging rapidly in a broad range of activities such as baseball, skiing, hockey, rock climbing, bowling, gymnastics and many more. These tournaments provide athletes with disabilities the opportunity to compete across the state. The sheer volume of kids taking part in organized team activities is mind blowing. Consider every type of offering, multiplied by numerous levels, from beginner to advanced, and the tally easily climbs into tens of thousands of families involved with youth competitions.

It�s the magnitude of this industry that draws Visit Duluth to actively pursue the opportunity to host such events. The fact sports which were once considered seasonal now go year-round is an added bonus for communities eager to host.

Adding adult leagues into the mix stretches the spectrum beyond youth sports. January marked the start of the Minnesota State USBC Women�s Championship bowling tournament which Duluth is hosting fourteen consecutive weekends into early May. The estimated economic impact of this event is $1.2 million. These women travel from across the state to dine, shop and bowl in our city and hopefully return on business, with family or for another ladies getaway.

The Minnesota Operators of Music and Amusements awarded Duluth the Minnesota State Pool and Dart Championships held at the DECC the first weekend in February. Men and women, singles and teams competed to qualify for national competition. They are booked to return in February 2016.

Bicycle races, fishing tournaments and extreme obstacle courses such as Mudman, all hosted in Duluth, demonstrate the vast range of events that comprise the �sports market� and generate a local economic impact between $5-6 million annually.

Anne Bubacz Hamann, director of sports for Visit Duluth, has been developing the sports marketing initiative for nearly three years. This will become her full-time focus in 2015, with the top priority of forming the Duluth Sports Council. A council is modeled after a sports commission, but operates as a branch of the convention and visitors bureau rather than requiring a separate staff and budget.

The Duluth Sports Council will be comprised of community volunteers representing a diverse cross section of sports and activities in youth, adaptive and adult categories. This advisory group will work to establish a cohesive sports marketing effort to be implemented by Visit Duluth.

It will also provide a solid connection between the city and local organizations which is key when bidding to host state, regional and national events. In many cases, one of the mandatory criteria to host these events is the city must have an established sports council or commission. Visit Duluth is ramping up this effort in late February to remain competitive in the sports market and continue expanding the opportunities for our community.

Competition is fierce between destinations vying to host sporting events, and our role is to keep Duluth in the winner�s circle. Game on!


Anna Tanski, President/CEO