If the NFL
is a copycat league, sports tourism is a copycat industry. Brian Connolly
founded Victus Advisors six years ago to change that.
He believes communities should embrace their established identity and interests. New facilities should offer opportunities that augment what already works and capitalize on growing sports trends within their own communities.
“Sometimes you can copycat from another community and get lucky,” he says. “But more often than not, you really need a customized, unique plan for your market.”
Just as the plans Victus presents to clients are based on research, Connolly’s philosophy is built upon results. The Park City, Utah
-based firm lists more than 30 clients on its website. They range in geography, experience and needs. All are interested in driving more visitors and economic development.
Victus prides itself on being the first step in that process. “If you screw up in the beginning, it can get you in trouble for the next 15 to 25 years,” Connolly says.
Many a community must wish “Field of Dreams” was a documentary. But there’s a certain amount from the classic film that applies to sports tourism.
The idea for a new facility or venue often begins with one lone voice predicting great things. But for every feel-good story in real life, there is an equal number of white elephants—venues that sit empty.
Victus takes the guesswork out of what will work for cities, counties, CVBs and sports commissions. The company’s fingerprints are on the beginning stages of projects. “We specialize solely in sports facility feasibility research and economic analysis,” Connolly says.
Typically, a client comes to Victus with an idea of what they want. Some specifically target off-peak months in hopes of evening out business. Others are more general, operating on the principle that there’s money to be had in hosting sports events.
In about two months, Connolly and his team learn everything there is to know about the sports community they’re studying. They analyze a region’s demographics, socio-economic breakdown and established infrastructure (sports venues, hotels, attractions, etc.). From there, Victus establishes a game plan based off needs and opportunities, all traced back to interviews and focus groups with outside event owners, local stakeholders and community members active in sports—coaches, parents and athletes.
“We’ve established a reputation for being honest, and at times, even brutally honest,” says Connolly.
Indeed, Connolly says Victus prides itself on being independent, objective and conservative.
After its study is complete, the company offers support with issuing and evaluating RFPs to help communities engage follow-up with consultants, such as architects and facility operators, but Victus steers
clear of recommending specific groups to work on projects to avoid conflicts of interest.
Amid the boom in sports tourism and mega complexes like Indiana’s Westfield Grand Park and Georgia’s LakePoint Sporting Community, cities will ask Victus, “Why not us?”
Connolly comes prepared for such questions. “You need to understand the uniqueness of your community,” he stresses.
Bigger facilities cost more funds upfront and ongoing revenue streams (i.e. dedicated taxes) to keep them operating, Connolly notes. Event organizers of tournaments that bring thousands of athletes and their families to a community also know how valuable their commodity is in terms of room nights. Those major planners are not going to be eager to pay facilities money to rent fields, but rather they often expect financial support in return for selecting the tournament site.
Public-private partnerships are often another source of misconceptions, says Connolly. Private companies don’t typically volunteer to fund facilities and then let public entities program them.
“There is no knight in shining armor when it comes to public-private partnerships,” he says. “You have to set up a situation where both parties have skin in the game.”
For more on Victus Advisors, visit victusadvisors.com