Who's Who: A Go-To Guide for Finding the Right Partner for Your Sports Event
28 Mar, 2018By: Mary Helen Sprecher
The success of any sports event will be attributable to a combination of factors, but one of the most important – right up there having a great destination – is having a great partner in that destination. The right sports commission or CVB representative can help you with everything from choosing hotels to selecting venues to locating vendors and more.
Sports Destination Managementhas identified some of the best and brightest leaders in the sports tourism industry and compiled the results of its research in the next few pages. These are the people who can help you learn more about a city and how to make your event a success once you’re there.
Don Dukemineer, Foley Sports Tourism
Sports tourism industry veteran Don Dukemineer joined the Foley Sports Tourism (FST) team in February as deputy director.
He arrived at FST after spending 12 years as a Convention Sales Manager with a focus on sports and education with the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Dukemineer will continue serving as Chairman of Sports Alabama, the state's sports initiative, as well.
He has earned his designation as a Certified Sports Events Executive (CSEE) and Certified Hospitality Sales Professional (CHSP). He also serves on the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) Board of Directors.
Dukemineer will be overseeing the sales and marketing side of FST and navigate it to the next level – from a newly opened complex to a fully realized world-class sports tourism destination. He is looking to help Foley create lasting relationships with event planners by giving them a truly amazing experience that will have them returning for years to come.
Mary Otten, Pleasant Recreation & Park District
Mary Otten has been the general manager of the Pleasant Valley Recreation & Park District since 2014. Prior to starting her position, she worked for the City of Modesto's Parks and Recreation Department, served as the sports director at Valley of the Sun YMCA and worked for the Special Olympics planning regional and state competitions.
Otten focuses on creating effective programs for the community and partners with the Camarillo Hotel & Tourism Association to promote the city as a sports destination. Otten, a former college basketball player, is passionate about sports and understands the benefits of sports tourism in her community. As the general manager, Mary oversees the various parks and facilities available for sports use and works with event organizers from inception to game day.
As a growing sports destination situated between Malibu and Santa Barbara, Camarillo averages temperatures in the low to mid 80s in the summer, making it an ideal destination for soccer, baseball and softball tournaments. Along with ideal weather, Camarillo is equipped to host bigger tournaments with 11 hotels throughout the city. For more information on sports facilities, contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-482-1996.
Florida: Lake County
Steven Clenney, Visit Lake
Steven Clenney joined Visit Lake, the Lake County, Florida, tourism office, in February of 2017. Clenney has nearly 15 years of event management and sports marketing experience including time at the Central Florida Sports Commission and the NBA G-League.
As a member of the Central Florida Sports Commission, he was a part of the opening team for the $27 million Boombah Sports Complex at Seminole County and Boombah-Soldiers Creek Park.
As manager of sports development for Visit Lake, he is responsible for recruiting new event opportunities and continuing the championship history of the Central Florida destination.
In this role, he will also coordinate projects such as the $1.5 million Hickory Point Beach fieldhouse, which will add state-of-the-art amenities to the largest sand volleyball complex in the state of Florida, Hickory Point Beach. In addition, he will oversee the completion of the Lake County Disc Golf Trail, which will have six championship-level disc golf courses designed to host regional, national and international tournaments.
Clenney has worked with a variety of events such as the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour, USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships, the inaugural AVCA Small College Beach Volleyball Championship, the Youth Baseball and Softball Nationals and others.
Cort Carlson, Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau/Aurora Area Sports Alliance
Cort Carlson has been executive director of the Aurora (Illinois) Area CVB since May 2015. Since that time, Carlson has made strategic changes to elevate the Aurora Area as a leading sports destination in the Midwest; including hiring an experienced director of sales to actively identify, bid and secure tournaments for the Aurora Area.
To better brand the region as a sports destination, the Aurora Area Sports Alliance (AASA) was created. The efforts continue to pay off with millions of dollars in economic impact generated and a new appreciation for the regional impact of tourism in the Aurora Area.
This year, the Aurora Area will host the USA Ultimate Masters Championship, one of three major Ultimate events to call the Aurora Area home in 2018. In two years, the Aurora Area has hosted USSS Fastpitch Girls National Championships, NCAA Divisions I Men's & Women Golf Championships, PBA Xtra Frame Parkside Open and National Latino Amateur Boxing Association National Championships, among many other tournaments and sports.
Prior to joining the Aurora Area, Carlson held positions with McHenry County, IL CVB, City of Woodstock, Illinois, and the Lake County and Elgin Area CVBs as well as Gurnee Mills Mall and Chicago Premium Outlets.
Danielle Bensing, Enjoy Peoria
Although Sports Sales Manager Danielle Bensing is new to the Enjoy Peoria team, she is no stranger to Peoria Area hospitality. As an area native, Bensing has spent a number of years in the hotel business, accommodating several sports teams on any given weekend. Bensing is excited to now bring those teams to the area. “Now I get to bring them to the Peoria Area!” Bensing said. “It’s pretty cool to be on the CVB side.”
Peoria has a very rich sports history and Bensing can’t wait to show that off to tournament planners. “I love meeting people,” she said. “With sports, I enjoy learning about their background and seeing how it is all connected. I look forward to continuing my relationship with existing groups and bringing in new groups (both conventional and non-conventional) to our area!”
Bensing lives and breathes the community she is from and is always ready to brag about it. “I love that we are growing every day, yet keep that small-town feel – that small town hospitality. We have so much available in our area and it is fun to discover and promote that in any way I can.”
Louisiana: Jefferson Parish
Troy Dupont, Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (JCVB)
Troy Dupont, a Louisiana native, joined the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (JCVB) in 2017 as a sales manager working the education and religious markets with a concentration in sports.
A growing sports destination, Jefferson Parish hosts youth, amateur and professional sporting events within a variety of venues, including a 2.75-mile world-class track at NOLA Motorsports Park, two indoor sports centers, a 22-court sand volleyball and soccer complex and multi-purpose fields. Adjacent to New Orleans, the destination is ideal for hosting events both small and large, offering affordability and convenience as well as authentic Louisiana cuisine and attractions.
Dupont brings a wide range of experience to the JCVB, having spent 18 years in the hospitality industry working as a sales manager with the Inter-Continental Group, Omni, Hilton, Starwood and Wyndham. In 2014, he received his bachelor’s in business with a concentration in human resources from the University of Phoenix.
Although this is Dupont’s first time working with a CVB, his wealth of knowledge and industry relationships have made him an asset to the sports market. A certified member of the Who Dat Nation, Dupont has a fun, creative personality that is present in his work. Connect at Troy@visitjeffersonparish.com.
Terrance (Terry) Hasseltine, CSEE
Maryland Stadium Authority
Terry Hasseltine was hired in July 2008 as the executive director of Maryland Sports and joined the Maryland Stadium Authority leadership team as vice president of marketing and communication in 2014.
Professional honors and awards received by Terry Hasseltine include:
2017 Sport Tourism Executive of the Year by the NASC
2017 Tourism Partner of the Year by Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism
2011 20 most powerful people in Baltimore by the Baltimore Business Journal’s Power 20: The Next Generation
2010 Most Influential Marylander – Civic Leadership by The Maryland Daily Record
2004 Kentucky Colonel.
Hasseltine also serves on the Maryland Tourism Coalition Board of Directors, US Sports Congress Advisory Committee and serves in an advisory role with the Maryland Horse Industry Board. Hasseltine was the Chairman of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) from April 2013-April 2014.
Maryland Sports has engaged over $1.5 billion worth of economic activity and secured over $750+ million in direct spending. Currently, Maryland Sports is expanding its web efforts, social media presence and attention to TEAM Maryland, launching a dedicated web site this year to support TEAM Maryland (www.TEAMMaryland.us). #SportsTourism at work.
Michigan: West Michigan
Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission
Mike Guswiler is president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), overseeing operations, the Meijer State Games of Michigan and championship-caliber Art Van Sports Complex. Mike has led the WMSC since its inception in 2007 as executive director and then as president in 2013. Under his management, the commission has booked 646 sporting events that attracted more than 1 million athletes and visitors, generating $297 million in visitor spending.
The WMSC celebrated a decade of success in 2017, a milestone credited to Guswiler for successfully harnessing some of the $10 billion youth/amateur sports industry. Highlights under his leadership include opening a championship baseball-softball complex that generated $5.5 million in visitor spending in 2017, creating the Meijer State Games - Winter and Summer Games that attract more than 10,000 athletes in 62 sports, hosting the 2016 NASC Sports Event Symposium that drew 1,000 industry professionals to West Michigan and hosting the 2017 State Games of America that attracted 12,000 athletes and 25,000 attendees, filled 5,500 hotel rooms and generated $10 million in economic impact.
Mike Guswiler and the WMSC have received many accolades, with Guswiler recently named the 2017 Newsmaker of the Year in Sports by Grand Rapids Business Journal (an honor he also received in 2014). The WMSC was named a Champion of Economic Impact by Sports Destination Management for the 2017 State Games of America (also winning the title in 2016 for the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships). In addition, the WMSC was a finalist in the 2016 “Best-Managed Nonprofit Awards” by MiBiz.
Derek Bombeck, Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau
Event owners 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. He has called the Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau home for the past several years, and 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 sales person 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.
North Carolina: Wilmington Beaches
Robert Cox, CDME, CSEE, Director of Sports Development, Wilmington and Beaches CVB
Robert Cox, CDME, CSEE, recently joined the Wilmington and Beaches CVB as Director of Sports Development. Cox has been employed in the hospitality industry since 1995, including working for several tour companies and convention and visitor bureaus.
He has extensive experience in the sports tourism field, including helping previous destinations recruit events such as the USA South Spring Sports Festival, Conference Carolinas Spring Sports Festival and Tarheel Nationals BMX Races.
He has served on the North Carolina Sports Association Board and Executive Committee, serving as Chairman of the Association from 2013 to 2015 and recently concluded his stint as Immediate Past Chair. Robert is looking forward to helping to continue to grow the sports tourism industry in the Wilmington area.
Robert and his wife, Stacey, spend their free time attending their four children’s youth sports events. He also enjoys traveling, and his most memorable trips include visits to China and the Pacific Northwest.
North Carolina: Jacksonville-Onslow
M. Scott Smith, Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission
Smith was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He understood he could make sports a career when he saw sports administration as a major while looking at the catalog for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. For him, it was a dream come true.
Smith graduated from UT-Chattanooga with a B.S. in sports administration in May 1996. Through the internships he had served, Smith recognized that he loved the nonprofit world of sports commissions and wanted that to be his future. He subsequently graduated with his M.S. in sports administration from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) in August 1997.
Before graduation, Smith was offered a position with the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee. He began as the director of communications two days after completing classes and over the next 13 years, worked his way up to president where he served his final two years.
Smith left the sports world for a couple of years but the desire to return began to grown. He began looking for positions in the southeast and was fortunate enough to land the position of executive director with the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission in June of 2017. Smith is excited to help Jacksonville continue to grow and prosper.
North Carolina: Raleigh
Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance
Scott Dupree is executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA), a division of the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau. In that capacity, he is responsible for promoting Raleigh, Cary and Wake County as a premier destination for sporting events.
Over the past five years, the GRSA has helped bring more than 340 sporting events to Greater Raleigh, resulting in more than 540,000 hotel room nights and $180 million in direct visitor spending.
Dupree is currently chair of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball local organizing committee, a position he also held for the 2014 NCAA tournament as well. He served as co-chair of the local organizing committee for the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend, which was rated by many observers as the most successful All-Star Weekend in league history.
Recently, Dupree directed the city’s successful efforts to bring both the Ironman 70.3 series and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series to Raleigh.
Dupree worked for 11 years in collegiate athletics at Arizona State University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina. He has worked at numerous ACC Tournaments, NCAA basketball and baseball regionals, college bowl games, the College World Series and the Final Four.
Joey Jewell, Director of Sports
Sales & Development, Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission
Joey Jewell is the Director of sports sales & development with the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission. Joey, a native of Austin, Texas, received his Bachelor’s degree in sport management at the University of Texas at Austin.
During his time in Austin, he managed multiple sport events including Texas high school football combines and international swimming and diving events such as the 2008 US Masters Nationals Swim Meet. However, it wasn’t until he earned his graduate degree in Sport Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia that he developed an interest for sports tourism.
After spending time with the Harris County-Houston Sport Authority as volunteer coordinator and event intern for the 2011 Pan American and Parapan American Games U.S. Team Processing, Joey quickly identified his calling. Since then, he has worked with a number of high-profile sports entities, executing camp management, game day and grass roots marketing, public relations and sales.
Before joining the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission, Joey worked for the national governing body of bowling, where he advised and educated industry members on best practices for growing youth participation as well as managing the 2015 Youth Open. Joey can be reached at 541-743-8757 or Joey@EugeneCascadesCoast.org.
Pennsylvania: Chester County
Travis Geiser, CSEE, Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau
Travis Geiser, a Pennsylvania native, joined the Chester County CVB in April of 2017, bringing with him four years of experience in the sports tourism industry. His passion for sports and events drives him to see the opportunity in all events large or small.
With a degree from Temple University in sport, tourism and hospitality management and a concentration in event leadership, Geiser has always had a mindset to think of what the event organizers would want when they are in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Having the range of indoor and outdoor sports complexes, multiple ice rinks, equestrian venues and spectacular natural venues provides Chester County the perfect opportunity to be unique and provide a setting unlike any other destination.
Geiser looks forward to working with new rights holders and helping them grow their events in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
In his spare time, Geiser is an avid cyclist and enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, Marissa. His best advice to planners and colleagues can be found in two quotes: “Don’t wait for success, start ahead without it” and “An expert was once a beginner.”
South Carolina: Columbia
Jarrett Dowling, Experience Columbia SC Sports
Jarrett Dowling is the sales manager for Experience Columbia SC Sports. As a Columbia native she loves serving and contributing toward the success of the city in which she grew up. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina where she majored in sport and entertainment management.
During college, Dowling worked with the Lexington Blowfish, a college amateur bat league and The University of South Carolina Gamecock Club and Development Offices. Upon graduating, she became an event coordinator at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center before finding her home in the sport tourism world. Dowling is in the process of getting her Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) through the NASC and says learning this industry has been exciting and extremely rewarding. Her favorite part of her job is being right in the middle of the development and growth of the city. Seeing all the new and exciting things happening and coming to the region makes it easy to sell Columbia as a sporting destination.
Dowling is also a member of the South Carolina Sports Alliance, hospitality chair of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Summit, serves on the special events committee at The Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce and volunteers frequently with the Sport Management Program at the University of South Carolina.
When Dowling is not working, she and her husband love spending time on Lake Murray and cheering on their South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina: Greenville
Robin Wright, CSEE, VisitGreenvilleSC
Robin Wright, CSEE, senior sales manager, sports, at VisitGreenvilleSC, is a seasoned sports tourism sales professional with 21 years in the hospitality industry. Wright spent the first 12 years of her career gaining valuable experience in hotel sales at properties throughout the Southeast. In 2009, she launched her career in sports tourism industry with Visit Jacksonville (Jacksonville, Florida).
In early 2014, Wright 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 the following:
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
2018 and 2019 USA Duathlon National Championships.
Wright largely credits her success to continued partnerships and relationships, both in the local community and within the sports industry.
South Carolina: Myrtle Beach
Jonathan Paris, Visit Myrtle Beach
Jonathan Paris joined Visit Myrtle Beach as the executive director of sports tourism in January 2018. He leads the sports tourism efforts along the 60 miles of the Grand Strand.
Paris got his start in sports tourism in 1999 at the Massachusetts Sports Partnership in Boston. For 13 years, the last six as the executive director, he worked to attract and support world-class sporting events and meetings to the Commonwealth. Notable events included the NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four, the NCAA Lacrosse Championships, the US Olympic Gymnastics Trials, the US Figure Skating National Championships, the Dew Tour action sports tour and the USOC Board of Directors Meetings, to name just a few.
Prior to joining Visit Myrtle Beach, Paris served as director of events at Austin Junior Volleyball in Austin Texas. In this role, he organized convention center-based USA Volleyball-sanctioned girls’ club volleyball tournaments, including the Mizuno Lone Star Classic National Qualifier in Dallas, one of the largest USA Volleyball sanctioned events in the country with over 1,800 teams.
Paris received his undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney College and earned a master’s from Georgia Southern University. He and his wife, Sarah, have three children: Isabella, Stevie and Charlie.
South Dakota: Rapid City
Todd Tucker, Visit Rapid City
Todd Tucker joined the world of sports tourism in 2015 as the director of sports and events with Visit Rapid City. As a lifetime sports enthusiast, he respects the opportunity to work with event owners to show what a great destination Rapid City is for all their sporting needs.
Having graduated from National American University with a business management degree emphasizing sports management, Tucker appreciates the ability he has through sports to help Rapid City grow and bring in sports events that create economic impact.
Prior to joining Visit Rapid City, Tucker spent 13 years working in higher education at five different universities as a soccer and softball coach, residence hall director and director of university housing. At Northern State University, Tucker attained his master’s in education emphasizing teaching and learning.
His well-rounded education and industry mentors helped him find his passion in sports tourism and his work ethic and servant leadership are tools he uses to help Rapid City grow as a sports destination.
When not working, Tucker and his wife, Sarah, enjoy time together with their four children: Makenna, Kaylee, Kayson and Bentley. Interested event owners can connect with Tucker at email@example.com “Do Big Things” in Rapid City, South Dakota.
South Dakota: Sioux Falls
Tate Stensgaard , Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tate Stensgaard has lived and breathed sports his entire life. He grew up as a basketball fan, then went on to play collegiate ball at Western Illinois University, a member of The Summit League.
Stensgaard joined the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2016 as a sales manager. Sioux Falls is also the host of The Summit League Basketball Championships, so it was a natural fit.
Stensgaard has attended a variety of trade shows across the country and is well-connected in the sports planning industry. His vast knowledge and connections have helped Sioux Falls book events such as 2017 US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championships, 2018 NCAA DI Men’s Hockey West Regional, 2018 NCAA DII Men’s and Women’s Elite Eight, 2019 USA Softball 18U Girls’ Northern National Championship Finals and more. Stensgaard’s devoted work helped Sioux Falls book a total of 21 sporting events in 2017.
As a big-picture thinker, Stensgaard has a passion for seeing Sioux Falls succeed on both a regional and national level when it comes to hosting sports events. He inserts himself in the planning process every step of the way to ensure event owners’ expectations are far exceeded. Those who want to get the conversation started can contact Stensgaard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monica Tschauner, Odessa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Monica Tschauner has been with the Odessa Convention & Visitors Bureau since November of 2017. She has proudly called Odessa home for the past 49 years and has a strong sense of pride for her community.
Prior to joining the Odessa CVB team, Tschauner worked as the executive director for the West Texas Gifts of Hope, a nonprofit that serves cancer patients with various services. Although new to the tourism industry, Tschauner brings a fresh vision to the organization and is driven by her passion for Odessa.
Odessa is a sports-minded community where everyone shows up to cheer on the teams. In July, Odessa will host the USA All Star Softball Championship, which is expected to draw close to 3,600 people.
Tschauner has taken over as the director during an exciting time for the Odessa CVB, with the building of the new convention center scheduled to be completed in early 2019. During her short time with the Odessa CVB, she and her team have already secured one convention scheduled to take place in 2020. The CVB is thrilled to have Tschauner as a part of the CVB team and looks forward to working under her leadership.
Texas: Round Rock
Nancy Yawn, CSEE, CDME, Round Rock, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau
As the Director of the Round Rock, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nancy Yawn delivers 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 Nancy’s 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 five national championships in April and May.
Nancy was awarded the “Certified Sports Events Executive” designation through the National Association of Sports Commissions 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, and 2017 Sports Destination Management Magazine named her as one of the Who’s Who in Leadership.
Eric Rainaud-Hinds, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
After working in the hospitality industry for over 12 years, Eric Rainaud-Hinds decided to open some new doors and recently earned his bachelor’s degree (with high honors) in social sciences including concentrations in economics, psychology and business administration. To fast-track his new career, he is currently earning his Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) designation through the National Association of Sports Commissions.
Rainaud-Hinds is willing to take that same work ethic used during his education and apply it to promoting the many sporting events his community can successfully host. He is a lifelong fan of almost all sports, an avid participant in many and coach of a couple, including track & field and cross-country for middle school student athletes.
Born in Bellingham and having always lived within a stone’s throw of Whatcom County his entire life, Rainaud-Hinds is quite familiar with the community and is more than capable of blending that knowledge with whatever it takes to get the right event owners/organizers involved with the ideal venue for the most successful event possible. His focus has been, and will continue to be, increasing community-wide economic impact through overnight stays in Bellingham and Whatcom County, particularly during the shoulder season of September to May.