"In Wisconsin, We've Got Sports."
Several efforts to use sports as tourism promotional tools are active across the state.
The La Crosse Area Sports Commission was formed a couple years ago, but kicked off its events phase with a February banquet honoring athletes and sports figures. Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew was the main speaker.
According to the group's Web site, "The purpose of the Sports Commission as a non-profit amateur sports advocacy organization will be to promote economic development in the Seven Rivers Region by assisting to identify, pursue and facilitate athletic events and meetings, and to do so with skill while meeting all industry professional standards."
The commission is headed by Brian Meeter, a former college coach in Iowa who holds two degrees in sports management. Meeter works with a board that includes representatives from sports interest in the area.
A new magazine, called the Greater La Crosse Sports Connection, will print six times per year.
In March, the commission helped sponsor a golf show. Coming May 1-3 is the La Crosse Fitness Festival. All profits realized from the festival will go to benefit the St. Clare Health Mission and the La Crosse Youth Enrichment Association (YEA).
A Slide Into Safety program with the La Crosse Loggers, the Northwoods League team from theare a, will be held May 9. The Upper Mississippi Real Outdoor Expo will be heldin Onalaska June 19-21.
While the La Crosse sports commission is one of the newest organizations of its type to become active in the state, it is by no means the only one. The Central Wisconsin / Stevens Point Area Sports Commission has been active for several years and has helped the area host collegiate, prep and other amateur sports events.
Some of its objectives include assisting local sports organizations in their pursuit of events that provide economic benefits to the area; assisting in identifying, recruiting and promoting those events and meetings that bring out-of-town visitors to enhance the area economy; and promoting Portage County and its assets through sports. The group also has worked with local organizations on the economic potential for the proposed construction or remodeling of sports facilities.
In May, the commission will be part of hosting the state AAU girls basketball tournament and a bass and walleye fishing tournament.
The Oshkosh and Winnebago County Sports Commission is working with the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau in promoting events in that area of the state. The Chippewa Valley Sports Commission has promoted AAU sports and college lacrosse.
Efforts also are underway in Fond du Lac, the Waukesha and Racine areas, and several other communities. Most efforts are through local Convention and Visitors bureaus.
On the state level, the Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and Wisconsin Sports Development Corporation have formed a coalition to coordinate sports tourism in the state and help local sports commissions to promote sports events.
Grants are available through the coalition for communities seeking to develop sports tourism events.
The efforts of this coalition and local sports commissions go beyond the high profile professional and collegiate sports in Wisconsin. While cheerleading for the Packers, Brewers, Badgers and other major sports teams, the groups also want to promote tourism by exposing groups and sports enthusiasts to the many venues and opportunities around the state.
The coalition Web site includes this pitch to potential event organizers:
"Why Wisconsin? World class venues. A rich sports history. Invaluable hands-on assistance from the tourism industry. These are just a few of the reasons to host your next sporting event in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has hosted many memorable sporting events ranging from professional all-star games and outdoor competitions to collegiate championships and endurance races.
"The state boasts a diverse range of sporting events thanks in part to an extensive collection of venues capable of hosting all types of athletic competitions. Recent events include the Major League Baseball All-Star game, the PGA Championship, ESPN's Great Outdoor Games, the National Babe Ruth Softball Tournament and the Malibu Open Water Ski Championships and Wakeboard Exhibition ... not to mention our usual lineup of NFL, NBA and NCAA Division I contests."