Over the Top: An NGB Event Rights Holder’s Perspective

I recently spoke about the bid process for USA Fencing national tournaments at a conference in Clearwater, Fla. I was the fifth of six bid presentations, so I was just hoping the audience would be in the room when it came to my turn.  Toward the end of my presentation, after showering the audience with candy to keep them awake and gifts to get their attention, I threw in a slide from the 1987 movie “Over the Top.” “So how can your bid be like Sylvester Stallone?” I asked. After what seemed like five minutes of abundant laughter, I began to explain. In the five years I’ve managed and selected site locations to host championship amateur sporting events, I’ve been amazed how varied local support can be. Each city is completely different. They are structured differently, receive funding differently and have different resources. That part I get. You have varying levels of involvement before, during and after the athletes and families roll through town. That part I don’t get. Event rights holders want to hold their events in the city that has a team of brightly clad people covering the streets armed with maps, coupon booklets, smiles and suggestions. Don’t be the city that leaves the visitor’s booth vacant while our pre-teen participants and their parents meander by and hope that “Yelp” helps them out with somewhere to eat. Some cities sign the contract to host your event and the next time you speak to them is via email in the form of a post-event survey. Others spend countless hours planning and supporting our non-profit sports organizations— designing an event logo, hosting press conferences and inviting local political and sports figures to celebrate the event. Be the city that blankets your hotels, cafes and restaurants with event posters that you created. Don’t be the city that drops off your sports commission banners at the end of a long set up day and asks our staff to hang them up. Recently, I went to dinner with the executive director of a sports commission during one of our championship tournaments. When she met me in the lobby of the hotel, she was holding a stack of paper. Because it was a holiday, she had printed out a list of all the restaurants that were open that evening and was hand-delivering them to the hospitality and front desks of the hotels in our room block. Be the city that brings your local high school baseball team out to help set up our equipment while you personally drive the forklift. Don’t be the city that doesn’t specify your union labor laws, thus putting us behind schedule and budget and in bad graces with the loading dock foreman. What’s another way to put you over the top? Be transparent with overall costs. There is nothing worse than going back to the office a week after a seemingly successful tournament and receiving sticker shock. Years ago I argued with a convention center catering manager because bottled water cost me 25 percent of our overall catering budget. On a recent site visit to a brand new convention center facility, however, I noticed filtered water fountains in each exhibit hall we were contracted to rent. That saved me at least $5,000. As the sports industry conference season unofficially kicks off at Connect Sports Marketplace this week, turn your hat backward and keep that classic film in the back of your mind. And when you score a bid takedown in Milwaukee by landing an event, offer our staff, officials, parents and athletes a safe, quality time at a fair price and we’ll return again and again.   (photo: Nicole Jomantas)