Connect Sports caught up with this 2018 Game Changer to talk about the commission and the future of sports in DuPage County, Illinois.
Why create a sports commission?
Here in DuPage County, we have a rich tradition of sports. For more than 100 years, we’ve played host to high profile events ranging from the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, to 24 straight U.S. Open Polo Championships at the Oak Brook Polo Club, among dozens of other prestigious events that regularly call DuPage home.
This legacy was identified in the DuPage CVB strategic plan and led us to undergo a multi-phase sports assessment of market potential with Sports Facility Advisory and Huddle Up Group. Using the research and findings by the consultant team, along with feedback from our sports advisory committee, we created the “DuPage Game Plan.” Among its three key objectives, this strategic plan called for creating and investing in the DuPage Sports Commission as a new department of the DCVB to effectively mobilize our sports tourism partners and better position ourselves in the industry.
We celebrated the official launch of the DuPage Sports Commission in May with 90 of our sports stakeholders at our inaugural DuPage Sports Tourism Forum. At the forum, we featured industry speakers with expert education, and announced four new events coming to DuPage County providing nearly $2 million of new direct spending to the area.
Through strategic growth, the commission will usher in a new era of sports tourism for DuPage providing economic, social and community-based benefits to our residents and communities.
Did any results of the SFA and Huddle Up Group research on DuPage surprise you or guide you?
Combining both the experience and expertise of SFA and Huddle Up Group was a natural fit to understanding how we can support the development and enhancements of facilities, and how to position ourselves as a nationally competitive organization in event development and hosting best practices. The biggest surprise was how this process activated partnerships with our stakeholders who have a shared interest in developing our sports product. From countless interviews, meetings, community forums and conversations came a natural mobilization of sports partners who helped create momentum for the initiative. After more than two years since we started this process, we’re still riding that momentum and stacking wins.
Want to brag about some big events you’ve already scored?
When we launched the sports commission, we had some big event announcements. This included the Lombard Cycling Classic as the first owned event of the DuPage Sports Commission. This criterium style race was part of the 10-day Intelligentsia Cup—the largest series of its kind in the country—and we were the local organizing committee. From obtaining an event permit to closing a downtown area for an entire day, to recruiting and managing volunteers, we learned a lot! With 471 cyclists representing 40 states and 20 countries, and more than 1,000 local spectators, we were thrilled with the outcome and are well underway for next year. We expect this event to become a signature event for years to come.
We also announced USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals are coming to DuPage in 2020 at Cantigny Park with DuPage Sports Commission as the lead local organizer. Cantigny is the former estate of Robert McCormick, the longtime publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and the grounds feature an incredible mansion, gardens, a First Division Museum and outdoor tank park. I’m fairly certain it will be the first cyclocross course featuring tanks. Yes, actual tanks!
Also in 2020, USA Weightlifting National Championships will be returning to DuPage just a few short months before heading to the Tokyo Olympics. We were fortunate to host Nationals in 2017, and their 2019 National Junior Championships, and can’t wait to have them back at the Westin Chicago Lombard in 2020.
Is there a reason cycling has been at the forefront?
DuPage and the entire Chicago region has an incredible cycling and cyclocross scene. This base of partnerships, support and athletes has been instrumental in capitalizing on events. We know that to be successful we need to identify key sports and events unique to our destination. Cycling is a perfect example of sport at which we excel.
Everyone always wants to know about facilities. What’s new with yours?
In spring 2020, the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park will open. It features a 50-meter competition pool with seating for 1,200, and a 25-yard development pool, along with all the amenities needed for competition. This venue will provide Illinois athletes a place to swim and compete, and we’re anxious to see it open. No doubt about it, this venue is going to deliver significant economic, social and community-based impacts to DuPage for many years to come. It will be the new home to swimming competition in Illinois.
What do you think the perception of DuPage is like? Are there any myths you want to dispel?
DuPage is the western suburbs of Chicago, and we’re easily accessible by both O’Hare and Midway International Airports, or by car via eight major interstates. We feature more than 100 hotels with more than 16,000 rooms and plenty of dining options and entertainment of a big city. However, you won’t find big city prices or costs here. Compared to Chicago and the other suburban regions, our taxes are lower, parking is free and we’re very family-friendly.
What’s next for DuPage?
As we move forward, we understand that new facility developments are needed to meet the demand of our residents and to be more competitive in the industry. Our strategic plan involves creating a facility master plan, and with that, we have several projects currently in the concept phase we’re excited about. There is more to come soon!