Following the example of many cities that are setting up dedicated sports tourism organizations separate from their primary economic development groups, Akron recently announced the creation of the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron.
The group is an offshoot of the existing Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau, and it will be helmed by the Bureau’s destination sales manager, Brittany Wigman. The new division’s first move was to establish a new Web site for Akron sports, PlayAkron.com. The creation of the new division resulted from Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, which set out to widen economic opportunities for the city.
Akron already hosts a number of national and international events, including the Akron Marathon, the All-American Soapbox Derby and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, however, the opportunities the new sports alliance will seek lie largely in youth and amateur sporting events.
“The area has played host to a wide range of events — from youth soccer tournaments and high school championship basketball games, to BMX races and shuffleboard competitions,” wrote Crain’s Cleveland Business’ Judy Stringer. “In 2015, the Akron/Summit CVB booked 74 sports-related events, according to Mahon. More than 60 percent of those were youth competitions.”
Akron is not new to sports economic development initiatives. Since 2008, Summit County joined forces with neighboring Medina, Portage and Stark counties to create an organization called Sp4rts Ohio, which enables the counties to share resources such as hotel room for large, geographically widespread sports events (such as road races). While the city plans to continue participating with this group, city leaders said it needed the resources of an organization dedicated to Akron alone.
The city has already had some success with youth sports. Last, year, the annual King James Shooting Stars Classic brought 38,000 players, ranging from second grade to high school, and another 15,000 family and friends to Akron. The event generated $4.9 million in accommodations, dining, retail and entertainment over two days. The sports alliance plans to work to attract similar events that will result in overnight stays in Summit County.