You probably didn’t give much thought to why your daughter’s cheerleading competition was in Miami this year, or why the Final Four was being played in your hometown. You were just pumped to have scored a couple tickets. You didn’t think about the complicated bid process and logistical concerns of bringing a sporting event to a city.
In 1992, Don Shumacher, the executive director for the National Association of Sports Commission, and fourteen others realized the implications of sporting events in the United States. What they knew ahead of the curve was the power of sports to spark a local economy, instill pride to a community and increase tourism to a city. To aid in all aspects of this process, Shumacher spoke with ATLX to explain what’s going on behind the scenes of some of the biggest sporting events in the United States.
How did the National Association of Sports Commissions get its start?
Fifteen of us saw the need and got together in St. Louis in April of 1992 and signed the papers, formally incorporating the National Association of Sports Commissions. We charged ourselves dues even though we weren’t offering any member services yet.
We’ve grown from 15 to 650+ members and continue to grow. It really has been an interesting 20 years.
So what exactly is the National Association of Sports Commissions?
We are a member-owned, not-for-profit educational and charitable corporation that stands for industry best practices. Our members include host institutions like the Columbus Sporting Commission, event owners like the NCAA and the AAU, and many other organizations. We bring everybody together under one tent and stand for the best practices from the host side and the event owner side.
Since you deal with both the cities and the event organizers, are there any issues or conflicts that arise?
Conflicts can occur, arguments can take place, but that doesn’t mean that everybody doesn’t exist under the same tent. We as an association are a member services organization so we are as concerned with [a host city] as the NCAA.
We want the NCAA and [a host city] to make favorable deals with each other that will result in NCAA events in [a host city] based on the best practices of the industry.
How have you seen the landscape change during your career?
Well of course one of the things it’s done has gotten much bigger. Another thing it’s done is it’s gotten more competitive (amongst the potential host cities). It also leads event rights holders to compete with each other with what city they want to get into, and all of that is the result of growth.
What we’re seeing today is tremendous industry growth. We have grown right through the recession. So what happens is there are a lot more people in the business, and there are profiteers that have been attracted to the business.
That’s just a result of rapid growth and being the only segment of the domestic travel industry that continued to grow during the recession. People read about that and they want to get onboard whether they know what they’re doing or not.
Why do you think the sports industry has remained recession proof?
Not recession proof. Recession resistant. And it’s that way for a few reasons. One is these competitions need to take place every year. Pretty much everything you can think of in the high school, college and amateur sports market leads to some sort of championship. Every year, whether it’s a local, regional or national championship, whether it’s 12-year-old girls playing volleyball or 21-year-old boys playing football, there are going to be events that take place every year.
Second, parents are very reluctant to deny their youngsters the opportunity to compete at the level that their team has reached. So the answer is likely “yes” when the question comes up can we go to the championship event. Those are two very compelling reasons why the industry has continued to grow.
How does the National Association of Sporting Commissions work?
Domestically we work very closely with owners of events to help with better practices and better procedures for bidding their events.
For example, the NCAA is in the middle of completing three years of bids on over 400 events and we work with the NCAA for about 1 1/2 years to release those events for bid. We did everything from meeting with the NCAA, explaining to them everything from the things cities were looking for and the things cities were concerned about, to hosting webinars where the NCAA could present to our members, to the (actual) seminar they held that kicked off their bid.
How do you see sports evolving in the near future?
It is now a serious business pursuit. This is clearly not for uniformed people to think they’ll be successful. The first order of business is to learn what the industry is all about, learn what an individual community has to offer and the level to which they can compete based on their capabilities and then to go from there.