John Collins “J.C.” Poma didn’t need a tutorial to learn the lay of the land at Richmond Region Tourism, where he is the new sports development manager. A native of Virginia’s capital, Poma was a two-sport athlete at University of Virginia, where he played football and baseball. He talked about how his background equips him to forge new connections for the Richmond region within the sports tourism industry.
How will your background inform what you do in this position?
My job here is very much relationship-driven. I found that the relationships I developed previously, both as a college athlete and professionally, provided me with immediate direction when I walked in the door here at Richmond Region Tourism
. In college, I formed bonds with teammates, coaches, administrators, etc. These relationships are special to me on a personal level, but it’s exciting to reconnect with many of these contacts on a professional level.
How did you end up back in Richmond?
After graduating from Georgetown University’s sports management program, I immediately entered the sports industry in Northern Virginia. I grew up in Richmond and am passionate about this destination, so it was always a goal to come back. I returned home to work at a wonderful local nonprofit called The Doorways, a 112-room hotel that provides lodging for patients and their loved ones in serious medical crises. I never thought the relationships I built with hotels that support The Doorways’ mission would be such a valuable resource for me in a different role. The hotel partners in our region are tremendous ambassadors for our office in retaining existing events and attracting new ones, and I’m happy to work with them.
What are some major developments you see on the horizon for sports in Richmond?
Richmond has had tremendous success in rectangle sports like lacrosse, field hockey and soccer. We have multiple large facilities, both turf and grass, that allow us to host events of all sizes. Because of the growth in sports tourism in the Richmond region, there are plans to add more fields to existing facilities, and new facilities altogether. We are also lucky to have Greater Richmond Convention Center that allows us to bring events of all sizes indoors.
What are some lesser-known sports opportunities available?
Richmond Region Tourism represents five jurisdictions, including Chesterfield County, Hanover County, Henrico County, New Kent County and the City of Richmond, so we have a tremendous amount to work with in terms of facilities, hotels, and things to see and do. Our rectangle facilities and our convention center are well-known, but some organizers do not know about the many diamond complexes we have within short distances of each other. Given my background on the diamond, I’m excited to grow sports like baseball and fast- or slow-pitch softball.
What do you see going on here now that you never would have thought possible a few decades ago?
In 2014, Frommer’s said, “While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool”. This shows how much the destination has evolved over the last 20 years. We have become a destination for all ages, which greatly enhances our sports tourism efforts. While we host events year-round, summer is our busiest time, which means many families often combine youth sports events with their vacation plans. In 2016, Travel + Leisure named Richmond a top destination. We’ve got great shopping, and our food scene continues to garner national attention. National Geographic included Richmond in its “Where to Travel for Food in 2016” list.
Can you describe the success Richmond has with health and wellness activities?
Richmond is also a hot destination for outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, Richmond was named America’s best river town by Outside Magazine. The region has some of the best mountain biking in the nation, and the James River provides endless opportunities for fun on the water—kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, rafting and canoeing.
Road running, trail running and road cycling are also popular forms of fitness here. In 2015, the Richmond Region hosted the nine-day UCI Road World Championships
. Around the same time, the Virginia Capital Trail opened to the public. The Virginia Capital Trail is a 52-mile bike path that runs from Richmond to Williamsburg along the James River.