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Buffalo, New York Has a Game Plan: Double its Sports Tourism

24 Feb, 2016

By: Tracey Schelmetic

We can do better than that.

Or at least, that’s the going theory of Visit Buffalo Niagra (New York) upon reviewing an already impressive resume of 168 sports events that brought in about 80,000 hotel rooms in the last year alone. And building more sports facilities is a part of that plan.

VBN’s outlook is based on a recently commissioned report by Indianapolis-based TSE Consulting that found that new efforts to attract new events could double the local impact of amateur sports in the region from $70 million now to as much as $140 million, according to Jonathan Epstein writing for the Buffalo News.

To arrive at the estimate, TSE examined data from the successes of cities of similar size and scope to Buffalo, including Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Nashville, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

“Although there are some magnificent facilities in Buffalo and Erie County, there are also some areas in which additional facilities would help significantly,” said TSE director Dale Neuburger about the report.

The region is already home to plenty of sports, both those it has attracted and those it hosts as home teams. College and amateur athletic tournaments play there, from USA Hockey to the first and second rounds of NCAA men’s basketball as well as swimming and diving. It also sees more offbeat sports, including horseshoes and Scrabble tournaments. The Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau has estimated that 40 percent of visitors to Buffalo are there because of sports. Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of VBN, wants to up the ante.

In the coming months, he plans to begin lobbying for more sports facilities to accommodate the hoped-for growth, both from public investment dollars and private donations. In some cases, new facilities are required, and in others, tired, old buildings and fields need major facelifts. Specifically, VBN plans to push for a new 3,000- to 5,000-seat mid-sized arena, plus a multi-field complex that would include fields for soccer, lacrosse and rugby, and diamonds for baseball and softball.

Kaler says he will need to expend considerable effort convincing local government leaders, corporate sponsors, sports facility owners, developers and the community to buy into the agency’s new 10-year plan, but the economic impact report should help.

“This is our way to go to the county and put it in front of them, as well as approaching corporate sponsorships that can help subsidize and bring those partners to the table,” he told The Buffalo News editorial board. “It gives us a document to work from, rather than just Patrick and the sports team saying we need more money.”

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