The Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) has formally announced the formation of the Western Massachusetts Sports Commission (WMSC). At an April 11 press conference held at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Bureau representatives described how the Commission will enhance the GSCVB’s efforts to attract sports events and sports-related business opportunities to the four counties of western Massachusetts. The Commission will also increase the economic impact of sporting events in the area by coordinating regional sporting event bids, hosting and marketing these events. Capitalizing on the region’s rich history of sport and abundance of colleges and venues, including facilities on the UMass campus, the MassMutual Center arena, Eastern States Exposition, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort and Wahconah Park among others, the Commission plans to raise the stature and awareness of the region as an ideal sports/tourism destination.
The GSCVB cited the region's numerous other inherent advantages in attracting sports events to western Massachusetts, including first-rate accessibility by air, train, bus and car, a variety of outstanding and unique visitor attractions, plus a wide array of affordable dining and accommodations options.
Officials announced that sporting events would have to meet specific criteria to gain the attention of the Commission: 1) the ability to fill hotel rooms at high need periods throughout the year and/or contribute positively to the regional economy, 2) to provide media exposure on both marketing and editorial levels 3) to contribute to the region’s quality of life both in terms of entertainment (as spectator) and recreation (as participant) and 4) to help attract future events and/or tournaments to the region.
The Commission will be chaired by John F. Heaps, Jr., president of Florence Savings Bank. Also serving on the Commission are a number of individuals representing diverse businesses located throughout western Massachusetts and Boston, including:
Kenneth A. Sinkiewicz, deputy director, MA Convention Center Authority, Boston
Louise M. Hines, director of sports & event marketing, MassMutual Financial Group, Springfield
Shannah C. McArdle, director of sports marketing, MA Office of Travel and Tourism, Boston
John L. Doleva, president & CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield
Thomas A. Burke, Granby High School Coach, Granby
Henry M. Thomas III, president & CEO, Urban League of Springfield, Inc., Springfield
Steve M. McKelvey, associate professor & graduate program director, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Paul J. Dinn, president, Dinn Brothers Trophy, Inc., West Springfield
J. Adam Filson, general counsel, Jiminy Peak Family of Companies, Hancock
GSCVB Chairman Michael E. Hurwitz and GSCVB President Mary Kay Wydra will also have active roles in the Commission.
The Western Massachusetts Sports Commission's marketing activities will be supported by dedicated funding from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and MassMutual Financial Group. At press time, a total of $130,000 has been designated to operate the WMSC.
According to Heaps, “I am honored to be named the inaugural chairman for this exciting new venture. I have been a longtime proponent of regional collaboration, and this initiative is a perfect example of how the four counties will be able to work together to attract a very lucrative sports tourism market.”
Hurwitz stated, “Western Massachusetts has had a long history of attracting top sporting events, and it makes perfect sense to focus on this growing segment of tourism. Sporting events have been driving incremental visitation to Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties for some time now, and with this Commission in place there are untold future benefits for the hospitality industry. We’re all very excited to join forces and generate these opportunities.”
Wydra commented, "There is great economic potential with this new initiative. For example, we just finished hosting the MAAC basketball tournament, and many thousands of people from outside our region were here sleeping in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, visiting our attractions and shopping in our retail stores. We envision attracting more and more of these events, and the benefit to businesses all over Western Massachusetts will be significant."
One of the initial tasks the Commission will undertake is to inventory all available sports facilities, including arenas, basketball courts, ball fields, ice rinks, ski areas and more. In addition, the GSCVB’s web site (www.valleyvisitor.com) will be expanded to incorporate information about hosting sporting events in western Massachusetts, sports-related trade shows will be identified for participation, and sports-centric marketing tools will be created and implemented in a dedicated sales strategy.
The GSCVB, an affiliate of the Economic Development Council of Western MA, is a private non-profit destination marketing organization that generates economic growth for Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley by marketing the region as an ideal destination for meetings and conventions, group tours and leisure travel.