Westfield, Grand Park launch sports tourism R&D hub

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The new Indy Eleven youth academies will be based at Grand Park in Westfield.

The city of Westfield and Grand Park Sports Campus on Tuesday launched a joint research hub focused on the sports tourism industry.

The city said the new Grand Park Research & Development Hub “will serve as a center of innovation for entrepreneurs, businesses and universities that are developing new technologies, services and research projects related to facilities and activities within the sports tourism industry.”

The hub’s mission is to leverage Grand Park’s 400-acre youth sports campus and more than 2.5 million visitors each year as research tools for professional, youth and recreational sports clubs and teams, accredited universities and educators, national governing bodies and local hospitality and sports tourism partners.

“Whether focus groups are needed to vet an initial concept, a product is in its beta testing phase, qualitative and quantitative data needs to be aggregated or if there is an opportunity to take a product or service to the next level, the Hub will accommodate all iterations of research and development,” Jessi Stas, partner coordinator for the hub, said in a written statement.

The hub’s inaugural class of commercial partners includes companies that have housed or deployed their products at Grand Park: Spotz, Sport Aware, RefReps and ZoneIn.

“Our partnership with Grand Park and its new research and development hub provides us with an opportunity to expand on a foundation of software that will change the way sports are consumed,” Sport Aware co-owner Rob Corsi said in a written statement.

The IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute is already working with hub as its first institutional research partner. Hamilton County Tourism has signed on to contribute data-analytics support for research into the growing sports tourism industry.

“With the proliferation of competitive and recreational sports, there is opportunity to innovate in the areas of safety, technology, marketing, nutrition and understanding. Youth sports, specifically, is now a $19 billion industry,” Grand Park Director William Knox said in written remarks.

Jordan Musall, a data intelligence manager for Hamilton County Tourism, said the organization uses geo location data, research panels, impact studies and more to create a visitor profile that enhances the Grand Park experience. Participation in the hub will allow that data to be applied across the global sports hospitality landscape.

“Grand Park is the largest sports complex of its kind in the country,” Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said in a statement. “There is no better place for ideas, technologies and research opportunities around sport to be originated, vetted and eventually launched into the marketplace.”

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