Madison, Wisconsin’s on a Roll

Madison golf
On any given weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, you’re likely to find at least a few sports events. On June 24-25, for example, the PGA American Family Insurance Championship, the National Boomerang Championship, the Midwest Log Rolling Championships and Bubble Run all drew crowds to the capital city. Some of this competitive spirit comes from the fact that Madison’s a college town, but credit is also due to Madison Area Sports Commission. The MASC has accomplished a lot in its nearly six years of existence. Chris Armstrong, who’s been with the commission since the beginning, was appointed new board chair early this summer. While Armstrong wouldn’t comment just yet on rumors of rebuilding the recreation center at University of Wisconsin-Madison, he did share with Connect Sports about what has Madison on a roll. In addition to your role as new board chair, you’re also president of Avante Properties. What made a real estate guy want to get into sports tourism? Sports has been a part of my entire life. I’ve always played sports, and right now I’m more involved in organizing my kids’ sports. Being part of a local business community, I wanted to find a way to give back to something I was passionate about. In a community like Madison, the ability to spend time with other leaders on a board like this isn’t taking away from my job. I’m making great contacts on the sports commission, helping envision the future of Madison, thinking about what kind of venue we could be for sports, and how that might even affect real estate in the next couple decades. You had some unusual sports groups compete in Madison this summer. Would you say you specialize in eclectic events? That’s definitely something we think lines up well with the citizens of Madison. When we get into more of these eclectic, unusual events, that ends up being a fun time for [the competitors] hanging out downtown, walking around State Street, etc. Can we expect any new facilities in Madison? There will be some things announced fairly soon. In the past, before the sports commission, the community added baseball fields, soccer fields, hockey ice. But they were done in a haphazard way—dimensions don’t fit for national events we’re trying to attract, or there aren’t enough side-by-side sheets of ice to attract a specific hockey event, etc. If we can interact with municipalities in the region and help organize efforts, then we can use [sports] as an economic driver for the community. Going forward in your new role, what goals do you want to accomplish? We’re only five years old, which is still pretty young, so we’re trying to think big-picture on a strategic plan of where we want to take this. We’re starting to get our footing in in terms of funding, so we’re asking: How can we increase our resources so we can increase our reach? We need to spend time thinking about how to approach the community in the right way and make them a partner in what we’re trying to accomplish. What makes Madison stand out from other sports cities in the state, like Milwaukee and Green Bay? Madison has a unique vibe, with our geography and our people. We’re an isthmus between two bodies of water that has a vibe you can only experience yourself. We get behind our sporting events, and people have an active lifestyle here, and we also have really good people who work in our youth leagues. We’re sort of that perfect-size city where [your event] can be a big deal, without the hassle [of a bigger city].