Hamilton County Sports Authority prepares for busy 2016

The Hamilton County Sports Authority had a busy year tracking more than 270 sporting events in six different communities, and it’s preparing for 2016 to be even more hectic.

The authority, which is charged with promoting and attracting amateur sports events to the state's fastest growing county, serves as a consultant, recruiter and all-around resource to more than two dozen sports groups.

The organization plans to launch a five-year calendar next month to help ease scheduling of tournaments, camps and programs and to help groups avoid the overlapping of major events. More than 20 “high demand” periods have been identified for 2016, and almost all weekends in June and July are booked.

The new calendar will include an economic impact calculator designed for tourism staff—plus a public version developed with the idea of helping hotel managers prepare annual budgets, according to William Knox, director of the authority.

Hotels were in high demand this year, and on some weekends, visitors were pushed to surrounding communities for overnight accommodations. Several new hotels are in the pipeline for Hamilton County now, but it will likely be mid-2016 before any of those open.

Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield has had the biggest impact on attracting sporting events to the area and boosting tourism, but Knox said the group has to keep track of large events in Indianapolis as well, such as the Indianapolis 500, because visitors spill over into Hamilton County.

“We had already been looking at bids one to two years out,” Knox said. “Now, we’re getting a little more strategic.”

He said he expects to start bidding for tournaments three to seven years in advance when possible.

The boost in sporting events also means a boost to the organization’s budget. The 2016 spending plan will increase by 25 percent, to $200,000, and the group will spend $20,000 on advertising. A sports manager position is also being added to help coordinate booking events.

The big push will be to add more lacrosse events, Knox said. The organization, a division of Hamilton County Tourism Inc., has already secured the U.S. Lacrosse National Championship, which will mark the first time a national lacrosse event has been to Indiana. 

The boys’ and girls’ teams will both play in July at Grand Park. The championship event recently expanded and next year will include three different age groups: 13-and-under, 14-and-under and 15-and-under.

It’s projected to fill 3,200 hotel rooms and generate $22,000 in direct spending on hotels, food and retail.

“Lacrosse is growing at a rapid pace,” Knox said. “We want to help grow the sport in central Indiana.”

He said the strategy is to create or lure events that will regularly recur in Hamilton County. One new lacrosse event has already signed up for three years.

Philadelphia-based NXTsports will host its inaugural tournament, called “The Grail,” at Grand Park in July. If successful after the initial three years, it could continue beyond that.

The 2016 tournament will include teams from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri and Indiana, and is expected to fill 1,350 hotel rooms and generate an $8,032 return on investment in direct spending.

“This is a product we can help develop here,” Knox said.

Knox also expects the winter months to be busier than this past year because the Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse, which has eight indoor basketball and volleyball courts, will be open at Grand Park. The indoor soccer arena at Grand Park is also scheduled to open next year.

“Those facilities on their own have already started filling their calendar,” Knox said. “We’ll look to kind of help if there are any gaps.”

Severa Adidas-sponsored basketball events are scheduled for June and July at the new fieldhouse. Those events could fill 8,500 hotel rooms and bring in $56,000 in direct spending.

“They come in, they stay, they spend a lot of money, but also the media exposure is great for us,” Knox said about nationally sponsored events and the accompanying visitors.

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