Pros Consulting, an Indianapolis-based firm with a national reputation in the parks and recreation industry, has hired one of the biggest local names in sports and event management to help grow its firm in a new direction.
Dale Neuburger, who stepped down as president of the Indiana Sports Corp. earlier this month, joined Pros as vice president of sport strategy and development.
Neuburger, who headed ISC for 12 years, carries international clout-especially in Olympic sports. Pros founder and President Leon Younger hopes to capitalize on that to launch a consulting division focused on sports commission operations, event hosting and facility management. For the last nine years, Pros has focused on the development and operation of parks and recreation facilities, from national parks to local green spaces. In addition to a four-person staff in Indianapolis, Pros has a four-person engineering department in Texas.
Younger, a Kansas native, was hired by then-Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith in 1992 to lead the city's Parks and Recreation Department. Younger launched the city's greenways program and led several other major initiatives until stepping down to start Pros at the end of 1995.
The firm projects revenue of $1.7 million this year. Younger thinks the new division could double that.
In December, Younger approached Neuburger about a position with the firm.
"I've been in the parks and recreation industry for 30 years and I've been to a lot of conferences, and continue to hear people talking about many of the sports-related issues that Indianapolis has tackled," Younger said.
Neuburger met Younger when Neuburger was tapped by Goldsmith to find a city parks and recreation leader "on the cutting edge."
Few people in sports and event management can match Neuburger's background, said Don Schumacher, executive director of the Cincinnati-based National Association of Sports Commissions.
Neuburger serves as president of U.S. Aquatic Sports, the national federation for swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming. He is vice president of the Americas for FINA, the international federation for swimming, and a member of its development commission. He formerly served as president of USA Swimming.
Neuburger said his new position will allow him to increase his involvement with FINA. Neuburger is widely expected by sources close to FINA to be assigned an expanded role this July when FINA convenes in Montreal. Neuburger said taking on more responsibility with FINA would have been difficult while still serving as ISC president.
Neuburger led ISC through three NCAA men's and one women's Final Four in addition to a host of national and international events, including competitions for gymnastics, swimming, wrestling and basketball. The one dark spot on Neuburger's ISC resume was the 2002 world basketball championships hosted in Indianapolis.
The U.S. team flamed out, attendance lagged, and the event lost $2.69 million. ISC had to cancel plans to buy the Pan Am Plaza, where it is housed, to pay the debt. Neuburger said money shouldn't be the only measure of that event's success.
"The FIBA world basketball championships were a success by every other marker except financially," Neuburger said. "The international basketball community still looks at that event as an example of a successful event. The event is still a highlight for the city of Indianapolis."
Neuburger is set to begin work this month with Maryland officials on the Adventure Sport Center in McHenry, Md., one of three new contracts Pros has landed for its new division.
The Adventure Sports Center was established in 1998 by Maryland officials to promote and facilitate a wide range of adventure-based recreational activities and competitions. The first phase includes an Olympic-class whitewater competition course and an outdoor amphitheater.
Pros' new division has also reached agreements to do work on Belle Island in Detroit and help update the master plan and revenue development for the Martinsville (Va.) Sports Commission.
There's still much about the industry-and especially event hosting-that is not well understood, said Bob Bedell, Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association CEO.
"It's now understood that there's a place for sports marketing in every city's business and marketing plan," Bedell said. "But there are a lot of issues ... like accessibility, hotel inventory and transportation coordination at all different levels that remain a real challenge."