Meet Your New Partners
6 Mar, 2020By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Events are successful, quite simply, because they are backed by excellence – excellence in planning, in marketing and in budgeting. The relationship of the event owner with the destination, however, is an often overlooked (but just as essential) part of the puzzle.
The right destination service professional can work with the event owner to help locate vendors, recommend venues and provide information on local attractions that will appeal to registrants and their families. In fact, their support is critical to creating an experience that keeps registrants coming back, year after year.
On the following pages, you’ll find some of the most well-regarded destination management representatives in the industry. If you’ve been looking for a new home for your event (and a new partner), you can’t do better than these.
Here’s to new and happy partnerships, as well as great events.
Decatur Morgan County Tourism
Don Dukemineer, Director of Sports Development
Decatur Morgan County Tourism announces the hiring of Don Dukemineer as director of sports development.
In his role as director of sports development, Dukemineer will report to President and CEO Danielle Gibson. He will be responsible for the sales of sports and athletic events to increase hotel occupancy as well as media exposure and revenue for local sports-related venues. He will also prepare and present bids, negotiate sales contracts and develop relationships with sports and events planners through trade show attendance and educational events to attract sports business to Decatur and Morgan County.
“We are thrilled that Don will be joining our team at Decatur Morgan County Tourism,” said President and CEO Danielle Gibson. “He brings forth over 14 years of experience and we believe his knowledge and experience in the sport tourism industry will be a great asset to our organization.”
Dukemineer has 14 years of sport tourism experience. Previously, he was deputy director of sports tourism for Foley Sports Tourism and prior to that, was a convention sales manager for Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors. He currently serves as chairman of Sports Alabama, the official state sports initiative charged with attracting sports tourism to 13 member destinations throughout Alabama, a position he has held since 2008.
Gainesville Sports Commission
Joleen Cacciatore Miller, Executive Director
Joleen Cacciatore Miller is the Executive Director for the Gainesville Sports Commission (GSC).
In 2006, after graduating from Florida Southern College (where she played on the women’s volleyball team), Joleen combined her sports background and degree in communications and was hired by GSC. While at the GSC, she attended the University of Florida and in 2012 she received her Master’s in Sport Management.
In 2013, she was appointed by the GSC Board Members to become the youngest and first female Executive Director for the organization. Her daily responsibilities include bidding on and bringing in events, creating GSC’s own sports events and supporting events for the community.
Since that time, the GSC has hosted over 40 events each year, totaling over 300 events. Examples of events Miller has overseen are FHSAA Cheerleading State Championship, USA Weightlifting National Championship, USSSA Youth Basketball National Championship, Babe Ruth World Series, US Synchro Collegiate Championships, Jimmy Carnes Track & Field Meet, Sunshine State Games, and Five Points of Life Marathon. These events have brought over 250,000+ attendees into the community with over $20 million dollars in direct local hotel impact.
Visit Champaign County
Mike Koon, Director of Sports, Special Events, & Film
Mike Koon joined Visit Champaign County as the Director of Sports, Special Events, & Film. Mike spent over 20 years at the University of Illinois, moving from public relations within the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and most recently, the Grainger College of Engineering.
Mike is also the public address announcer for Illini softball and volleyball, and radio play-by-play voice for Illini women’s basketball. He will work directly with planners and rights holders to retain and recruit sports and special events to the community, as well as overseeing the Champaign County Film Office.
Meet Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau
Melinda Garritano, CSEE, Senior Account Executive
Melinda Garritano, CSEE, is Senior Account Executive for Meet Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau representing eight communities in the Northwest Chicago area. After joining the Convention Bureau in 2007, Melinda has worked all markets and currently concentrates on sports, faith-based groups and fraternal affiliations.
Melinda grew up in the Chicago area and participated in team sports throughout middle and high school. She graduated from Iowa State University with a major in Hospitality Management and has extensive hotel experience within the industry.
Meet Chicago Northwest offers guests big city benefits in a relaxed hassle-free setting. Venues and ample green space provide opportunities to host varied sports events for teams and individual sport practices. Events Melinda has worked with include the annual Chicago Dragon Boat Festival on Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights. Karate, weightlifting, cheer and dance events have been hosted in hotel ballrooms and the Schaumburg Convention Center. Melinda is a member of the Sports ETA.
For information on venues and unique space to host your event, please contact Melinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau
Isaac Washburn, Sports Market Manager
The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau has hired Isaac Washburn as the new Sports Market Manager.
Washburn, originally from Gaylord, Michigan, attended Grand Valley State University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Sports Leadership. Washburn has a wide range of experience working with various sports organizations in western Michigan, including extensive experience in event planning and management. He has worked with the State Games of America, Transplant Games of America and the State Games of Michigan. Washburn also has experience with coaching, video analysis and operations from his years of working with several different hockey teams and organizations.
“I am extremely excited to move to the Chicago Southland region and work alongside the terrific staff at the Chicago Southland CVB to promote and drive economic impact for a region that has so much to offer,” Washburn said.
“We are thrilled to have Isaac join us here at the Chicago Southland CVB,” said Jim Garrett, President/CEO. “Isaac is a very talented and hard-working individual who will make an excellent member of our CVB team.”
Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
James Welton, Convention and Sports Sales Manager
James Welton is the new Convention and Sports Sales Manager at the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (PACVB). James is a recent graduate of St. Ambrose University located in Davenport, Iowa, where he received his B.A. in business sales.
During his time at St. Ambrose University on academic scholarship as well as football and baseball scholarships, Welton attained recognition on the Dean’s List multiple semesters, all while making time for volunteer work at the American Cancer Society and the Midwest Food Bank.
He also developed a passion for personal training and became one of four sponsored personal trainers for the Miss Iowa competition.
Being a Peoria area native, Welton has returned to launch his career at the PACVB and remains dedicated to healthy and active lifestyles.
His hobbies include fishing, a good book and continuing to grow in his faith in Christianity. In his role with the PACVB, his goals include bringing the “Passion” conference to Peoria as well as the first round of the NCAA Men’s or Women’s Basketball tournaments.
Visit Springfield, Illinois
Terry joined Visit Springfield, Illinois, in February 2012 in convention and sports sales. Terry has been extremely fortunate to have fostered great relationships with Springfield community partners including Capital Area Sports Commission, Springfield Park District, Springfield Hotel & Lodging and numerous local sports organizations. Through these relationships, many events have been made possible. During his time at the bureau he has assisted in bringing the NCAA to host regional golf championships, USTA Tumbling and Trampoline Nationals and USA Figure Skating Adult Sectionals to name just a few events.
Prior to coming to Visit Springfield, Illinois, Terry spent nearly 20 years in the Springfield hotel market holding positions including Reservations Manager and General Manager. He was the vice president of the Springfield Hotel & Lodging Association 2007-2008.
Terry grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and moved to Springfield after graduating high school in 1989. He enjoys spending time with his son, Will, and is an avid sports fan. LET’S GO CAPS!
Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Robin Jones, Senior Sales Manager
The Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (JCVB) welcomed Robin Jones as the new Senior Sales Manager in July of 2018. Robin brings a range of experience to the JCVB with a proven track record of success in hospitality sales, which lends well to attracting new visitor business to Jefferson Parish while strengthening member and partner relations.
A versatile sports destination, Jefferson Parish hosts youth, amateur and professional sporting events offering a variety of venues, including two indoor sports centers, sand volleyball and soccer facilities, numerous multi-purpose fields and NOLA Motorsports Park, the largest karting facility in North America with a 2.75-mile world-class track.
Just next door to New Orleans, Jefferson Parish is an ideal destination for hosting events of various sizes, all while offering affordability and convenience as well as authentic Louisiana cuisine and exciting attractions.
Robin’s intuitive ability to instantly gain client trust and build rapport has made her an asset to the sports market at the JCVB. Her solution oriented and “can do attitude” have been instrumental in marketing and selling the destination brand experience. Those wanting to connect with Robin can do so at Robin@visitjeffersonparish.com.
Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Kirk Elmquist, Vice President of Sports Development
Kirk Elmquist joins the Branson CVB as the first VP of Sports Development in the organization’s history. The former PGA TOUR Champions Legends of Golf Tournament Director, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Associate Executive Director and VP of Sales/Marketing of the 11-time World Series Champion St Louis Cardinals Double A Affiliate Springfield Cardinals is bringing 29 years of Business experience to the Branson team.
He is a proud alum of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Relationships, partnerships, sponsorships, friendships and championships: it seems like everything Elmquist has been involved in is about the “ships.” Collaborating with team members in these great organizations over the years has helped to create hundreds of millions of dollars for local economies.
His focus will be helping create new facilities and improve existing properties already thriving in the Branson area. Elmquist has been working in the Branson market for the past six years with Legends of Golf and had a front row seat to the massive golf expansion. Being up-close with Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris and his relationships with course designers such as Coore/Crenshaw, Gary Player Designs, Jack Nicklaus Signature Designs and Tiger Woods Design group has given Kirk firsthand knowledge on what is to come for the Ozark Mountain region.
Bonny Bernat, CSSE, Senior Sports & Events Manager
A native of Massachusetts, Bonny Bernat relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2007 where she worked with a destination management company serving the motorsports industry. In 2009, she joined the staff at Visit Winston-Salem as the Sports and Events Sales Manager, helping to position Winston-Salem as a premier sports destination for both novice and elite athletes alike.
While Bonny and her team spend time growing existing local events, the concentration of their efforts is focused on increasing the number of regional, state and national competitions that are held in the destination annually. Visit Winston-Salem has had the privilege of working with some of the top sports organizations in the industry including – but not limited to – USA Track & Field, USA Ultimate, USA Cycling, NCAA, USA BMX, NJCAA, NIRSA, US Youth Soccer, US Club Soccer, and US Lacrosse, to name just a few.
Bonny graduated with a business degree from Worcester State University, and has been a member of Sports ETA since 2009. She earned her CSEE in 2013, currently serves on the Executive Committee for the North Carolina Sports Association, and has more than 15 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industries.
Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau
You would be hard pressed to find anyone in Lincoln hosting a sporting event who has not interacted with Derek Bombeck. Derek has spent the past 15 years in Lincoln coordinating sports at every level. He began coordinating events at Nebraska Wesleyan University while earning two bachelor’s degrees and running on the track team.
Derek spent the next 10 years as the director of events for the University of Nebraska Athletic Department and earned his master’s in leadership education. Derek now calls the Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau home and there, he has helped recruit new sporting events to fill the facilities Lincoln has to offer.
Derek has an infectious personality that is evident to those who meet him. He is always the first to make sure everyone is having a good time around him while still getting the job done, which makes him the ideal salesperson for sports in Lincoln.
When Derek is not trying to sell organizations on all that Lincoln has to offer, he enjoys watching and playing sports, hunting and camping with his brothers and spending time with his wife Jenny and twins Collin and Graham.
Wildwoods Convention Center
John Lynch, Director of Sales and Entertainment
John Lynch is the Director of Sales and Entertainment for the Wildwoods Convention Center, a position he has held since 2001. He has been employed in the hospitality industry his entire professional career, beginning in 1983 as a conference coordinator for Destination Resorts in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He later moved to Colorado, holding positions including assistance manager for the Tamarack Condominium Hotel in Snowmass Village, and Food and Beverage Director at the Stone Bridge Inn.
In 1987, he was hired as the Director of Food and Beverage for the Madison House Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, eventually becoming Director of Sales and Marketing – a position he later held at the Golden Inn Hotel & Conference Center in Avalon.
In 2001, Lynch was named the Director of Sales and Entertainment for the Wildwoods Convention Center and over the past 19 years, the facility has hosted over 2,500 group bookings, with over 4.1 million in attendance and generated over 2.3 million hotel room nights worth more than $900 million.
He is also very active in philanthropic activities and was honored with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in helping the youth within his community.
Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Chris Lewis, Sports Tourism Manager
Chris Lewis joined Lake Erie Shores & Islands in 2019 as the Sports Tourism Manager. Chris has a bachelor’s in Sports Management from Baldwin Wallace University and a master’s in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University.
He brings 20 years of sports industry experience from his work with the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Lorain County Metro Parks, Defiance College, and Special Olympics New York. In his current role, Chris is marketing the destination as America’s Sports & Family Fun Capital to sports events rights holders, coaches and families. Get social with Chris by following/liking @ChrisLESIsports on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram.
Visit Edmond (Edmond Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Jennifer Seaton, Director
Jennifer Seaton became the second director of Visit Edmond (also known as Edmond Convention & Visitors Bureau) on July 29, 2019. She is a City of Edmond employee and long-time Edmond resident.
Jennifer brings extensive marketing and advertising experience from her 25 years working in the Oklahoma City metro. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Business Development for STAPLEGUN, an advertising agency based in Oklahoma City.
She previously worked as the Director of Marketing for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Vice President of Marketing for United Way of Central Oklahoma.
She attended Ohio University where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication. Jennifer’s goal is to elevate the “Edmond experience” to attract more leisure travelers, tournaments and business conferences to Edmond.
Tulsa Regional Tourism
Ashleigh Bachert, Vice President of Sales
Ashleigh Bachert is Tulsa Regional Tourism’s vice president of sales. If you think her name sounds familiar, you’re right – she was previously with the Durham Sports Commission, where she doubled Durham’s sports tourism economic impact.
Prior to being in Durham, she was Executive Director of the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission in Jacksonville, North Carolina, held the position of director of sales for a hotel in Martinsville, Indiana, and has worked in the athletic marketing departments at Indiana University, the University of Louisville and the University of Southern Mississippi. She also had a stint at with the PGA working with the then Buick Championship, now the St. Paul Travelers Championship.
She was a 2018 Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award winner and a 2018 finalist for the National Association of Sports Commission’s Sports Tourism Executive of the Year award.
She graduated from the University of Connecticut, where she also played softball, and received her master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Southern Missouri.
Tulsa Regional Tourism
Joel Koester, Director of Sports Sales
Joel Koester is Tulsa Regional Tourism’s Director of Sports Sales. He comes from a strong sports background, having spent eight years as the Sports Market Manager of the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau – a position he took following 12 years in the golf industry.
In 2017, Koester was honored by receiving Connect Sports Game Changer Award for his tremendous efforts in advancing the sports tourism sector in the Chicago Southland and his ability to give back to his communities – something he managed to combine with his job. He spearheaded the first-ever Turn Two for Youth Midwest Drive to collect and distribute new and used baseball/softball equipment to children in impoverished countries.
When not at work, Koester still loves to hit the links to play golf or bass fish. He also loves spending time with his wife Meghan, his American Foxhound Aliza, and his two cats, Capone and Sadie. Family and quality of life are extremely important to Joel and he has been able to enjoy both while working for the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He is a graduate of the Recreation and Sports Management Program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he also minored in Professional Golf Management.
Happy Valley Adventure Bureau
Danielle Vincenti, CSEE
Danielle Vincenti, a Pennsylvania native, joined the team at The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau in January 2020. She’ll be assisting with the launch of a new brand position and spearheading the sales effort in the sports market. Home to Penn State University and the third-largest stadium in the world – Beaver Stadium – Happy Valley has a strong sports tradition. The future looks promising as well, with the addition of two new sports facilities to the destination, offering nearly 100,000 square feet of indoor state-of-the-art hardcourt space.
Vincenti brings 12 years of experience in destination sales to her new position. She most recently led the development of a destination sales plan and budget for the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau. Additionally, she spent several years at Richmond Region Tourism managing the development and implementation of the sports market to become the largest market for Richmond since 2012. She has served on industry boards and committees for Sports Virginia, Sports ETA, Connect Sports Marketplace and Connect Women in Sports.
Vincenti is a Certified Sports Event Executive, recognized as a 2017 Connect Sports Game Changer, recipient of the 2014 Connect Sports 40 Under 40 award and featured in the 2018 Compete Sports Diversity ‘Faces of Sports’ issue.
Discover Lehigh Valley
Bree Nidds, Vice President of Sales
Bree Nidds is Vice President of Sales at Discover Lehigh Valley where she resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In her position, she oversees the sales and services efforts, generating an economic impact by hosting conferences, meetings, sporting events, and group tour business in Lehigh Valley.
Nidds is an active member of PA Sports, the statewide sports tourism organization, Meeting Professionals International and Destinations International. She serves on the Global Leadership Committee at Destinations International and oversees the Certified Tourism Ambassador Program at Discover Lehigh Valley.
Nidds has a master’s degree from North Carolina State University in Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Sports Management, and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A North Carolina native, Nidds will often expose her Southern accent and finds comfort in sweet tea. She enjoys exploring new places, attending comedy shows, and meeting new people, and she believes that common ground can always be found as long as you are open to it.
Robin Wright, Senior Sales Manager
Robin Wright, Senior Sales Manager at VisitGreenvilleSC, is a seasoned sports tourism sales professional with 23 years in the hospitality industry. Robin spent the first 12 years of her career gaining valuable experience in hotel sales at properties throughout the Southeast. In 2008, she launched her career in the sports tourism industry with Visit Jacksonville (Jacksonville, Florida).
In early 2014, she returned to her home state of South Carolina to continue her career with VisitGreenvilleSC, where she has been instrumental in elevating sports tourism, securing various youth, amateur and collegiate tournaments and championships.
Her notable accomplishments in Greenville include securing: 2017/2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Preliminary Rounds, 2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship- Regional Round, 2017 USA Karate National Championships, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, and the 2018 and 2019 USA Duathlon National Championships.
She largely credits her success to continued partnerships and relationships, both in the local community and within the sports industry.
Visit Knoxville Sports Commission
Chad Culver, Senior Director
A recipient of the Sports ETA All-Star Award, Chad Culver has served as the Senior Director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission since its creation in 2016. Under his direction, Knoxville has landed a variety of nationally recognized events, including the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships, USA Swimming’s TYR Pro Swim Series, NAIA Swimming and Diving Championships, Bassmaster Classic and Sports ETA (formerly NASC) Symposium – each of these last two set record attendance in 2019.
Culver has also overseen the purchase of sports courts and systems, allowing the VK Sports Commission to host more than 2,100 youth basketball and volleyball teams at the Knoxville Convention Center. These activities factored into the VK Sports Commission being honored as a 2019 Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism by Sports Destination Management.
Culver is a Chattanooga native with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from The University of Tennessee. He has more 20 years of experience in the sports industry in recruiting and managing events. Prior to Visit Knoxville, Culver was employed by Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau and the University of Tennessee Athletics Department. He and wife Caryn are the proud parents of three children.
Josh Dill, Director of Sports & Events
Josh Dill joined the Visit Frisco team in 2017. As Director of Sports & Events, Josh oversees the activities of the sports sales and services department, and he strives to continue to make Frisco an ideal destination for hosting sporting events.
“Sports tourism is so much more than just lead generation,” Dill said. “If we focus on building good local partnerships and bolstering our offerings as a destination, the events and economic impact will come.
“When I think about what I’m most proud of during my time in Frisco, I can’t help but look at the team around me. We put on events that typically wouldn’t work in a city of our size. We are exceeding department goals. When you combine good people with a shared sense of purpose, the sky is truly the limit. I like to think my job is less about shouldering the burden of making things happen and more about removing barriers that could prevent my team’s inevitable success.”
For more information, contact Josh at 972-292-5267 or at email@example.com.
Round Rock, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau
Nancy Yawn, CSEE, CDME, Director
As the Director of the Round Rock, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nancy Yawn continues to deliver a world-class experience with every tournament that is played in her dynamic community. As a partner to the teams she hosts, she is fully invested in their success.
She was a pivotal player in the sports marketing efforts in Round Rock, helping to create a premier destination for sporting events and launching the region’s Sports Capital of Texas brand. With her continued dedication to the Sports Capital of Texas brand, Round Rock is on the map as a top destination in Texas for youth and amateur sports. In fact, this year, Round Rock will host three national championships.
Yawn was awarded the Certified Sports Events Executive (CSEE) designation through Sports ETA, of which she is a former board member.
She also received the Destination Management Association International’s designation of Certified Destination Marketing Executive, one of the highest certifications in the tourism industry.
In 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015, Sports Events magazine named her as one of the top 50 planners in the United States. In 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Sports Destination Management magazine named her to Who’s Who in Leadership. SDM