Sports Anaheim Looks to Score Major Youth and Amateur Events

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When Jay Burress, CTA, became president and CEO of Visit Anaheim in 2013, the Southern California destination didn’t have any salespeople dedicated solely to sports. What a difference a few years can make. In March, the CVB launched Sports Anaheim, its bureau-within-a-bureau focused on growing its sports tourism business. Led by Roy Edmondson, CSEE, CTA, vice president of sports development and augmented by Sports Events Manager Anthony Brenneman, the effort is already paying off. A week after Sports Anaheim became official, USA Gymnastics announced the 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships will be held at Honda Center. It marks the first time Anaheim will host the event, which is the men’s and women’s national gymnastics championship. It’s scheduled for Aug. 17-20, 2017. Soon thereafter, Amateur Athletic Union announced it would open an office in Anaheim as part of a partnership with the city. The AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games will take place in Anaheim in July, and both sides hopes to turn it into one of the premier multi-sport events in the country. Burress, previously president and CEO of Arlington (Texas) CVB near Dallas, says more announcements are on the way. Since Edmondson joined the CVB in 2015, 50 sports groups have come to the region, representing 146,000 room nights. “We wanted to pay the attention to that market segment that it deserves,” says Burress of creating Sports Anaheim. “We think it’s a real growth area for our destination.” Anaheim benefits from weather allowing for year-round athletic competitions, but a great deal of resources is being put into finding more real estate for venues. But with Honda Center and American Sports Center—“one of the true great facilities in the country for volleyball, basketball and other indoor events,” says Burress—the city can already attract top-tier competitions. A father of three children involved in youth sports, Burress knows the importance of youth and amateur sports. He hopes the two-member sports team continues to grow, perhaps eventually leading to a sports commission. The city’s proximity to Los Angeles serves as a strength because of the additional airlift the metropolis provides. Burress adds if L.A. is awarded the 2024 Summer Olympics, it would make it easier to pitch Anaheim as host of future Olympic trials. Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort