By Maureen Werther
A group of local officials, business leaders, venue owners and stakeholders are teaming up with the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau to talk about establishing the Warren County region as a year-round destination for youth sports tournaments and other amateur athletic competitive groups.
Members of the group include Jeff Mead of the Glens Falls Civic Center; Amy Collins, director of business and tourism for Glens Falls; Joanne Conly, director of tourism for Warren County; Doug Miller of Adirondack Sportsplex; Ben Bernard, Glens Falls Dragons; David Decker of the AAU Basketball board; Michael Consuelo, executive director, Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce; Eugene Merlino, Lake Luzerne town supervisor; Lloyd Mott, chairman of Warren County Safe and Quality Bicycling Organization; Julia Johnson of Gore Mountain; Sarah Montgomery of West Mountain; and Mark Shearer of Gold Goal Sports Park.
Kristen Hanifin, special events and convention sales director for the Convention Bureau is spearheading the initiative and is enthusiastic about the opportunities to be gained from forming an alliance that hopes to attract larger regional and national sports events to the area.
The Lake George Chamber has been involved in promoting sports tourism for several years. Hanifin started with the Chamber in 2016 and immediately began working with local sports venues in an effort to drive future economic growth for the area via a year-round sports-centered tourism economy.
Hanifin has a background in tourism and sports, having worked for over 25 years in both the public and private sides of the industry. As the daughter of a professional basketball player, and the mother of two teens, she understands the potential economic impact of further developing the Warren County region as a destination for sports competitions, as well as what she calls “sports-cations.”
More and more families, with teenagers involved in competitive sports, are opting to turn the road trips they take throughout the year to support their children’s athletic endeavors into mini-vacations. Hanifin and others believe that, in addition to the many sports venues in Warren County, there is also the added advantage of the “natural” attractions, such as Lake George, West and Gore mountains, bicycling and more.
Hanifin said that forming a group to develop and expand the concept will result in enhanced communication among stakeholders and help to create a unified “brand” presence when trying to attract larger amateur athletic groups to the area.
She said there are often bid fees involved when vying to host some of the larger athletic events.
“Financially, it makes sense to get funding resources streamlined under one umbrella,” said Hanifin. “We need to look at events that will make sense and give us a good return on our investments.”
According to a recent white paper by Hanifin, “the CVB has recognized over the years that the sports tourism market is one which continuously demonstrates increased growth, and according to NASC [National Association of Sports Commissions], in 2015 showed visitor spending related to sport tourism to be $9.45 billion, up 5 percent from 2014. This also was a 13.9 percent increase from 2012 ($1.15 billion). In looking at the economic impact of sports on our region, the CVB has estimated that in 2016, the overall economic impact of the sports market to the Lake George region was around $20 million.”
Hanifin said the group has only met a few times and they are still “truly in the planning stages.” But, she and others are encouraged about the potential for developing the region as New York’s family friendly “sports-cation destination.”
The other positive factor is the increasing acceptance of the region as a year-round destination.
This year, a pro-am beach volleyball tournament is coming the Lake George’s Million Dollar Beach, which Hanifin said is a direct result of a recent aggressive outreach campaign to court event rights holders. The tournament has made a three-year commitment to the area and, according to Hanifin, will bring in former Olympic athletes.
Also, Shearer of Golden Goal Sports Park recently announced that the Arsenal Soccer Schools have chosen Golden Goal as its official North American location for 2017. In its press release, Arsenal said it chose Golden Goal because of the facility’s high level of professionalism.
Leroy Sequeira, Director of Arsenal Soccer Schools USA, added that, “After visiting Golden Goal Sports Park, I knew Arsenal FC needed to be here.”
“Having an international team like Arsenal select Golden Goal as its official residential location in North America is truly a great opportunity for our region to showcase itself to the attending teams on an international level.,” said Hanifin.