Looking for Leadership? Look No Further | Sports Destination Management

Looking for Leadership? Look No Further

Feb 28, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Over the centuries, we’ve seen plenty of stories, poetry and songs written about leaders. Some stuck in our mind. Some were pure hyperbole. But all of them did the same thing: lauded those we look up and told about their accomplishments.

Fortunately, this section won’t rhyme or be set to music in any way, shape or form. What it will do is outline some of the leaders in the sports tourism industry – people you can turn to who can help events reach their best potential.

Florida: Orlando
Eric Blanc, CMP, Senior 
Director of Sales
Orange County Convention Center
With more than 25 years of experience in event management and convention center sales, the Orange County Convention Center’s (OCCC) Senior Director of Sales Eric Blanc oversees the strategic planning and selling of the facility. Blanc’s background spans various top organizations in the industry including The Freeman Companies and GES Expositions, where he was a National Sales Manager for both companies. Blanc and the industry-leading sales team at the OCCC continue to prioritize clients’ unique booking needs. As North America’s premier location for safe in-person events, trade shows and conventions, the OCCC has successfully welcomed more than 200 conventions, trade shows, meetings, consumer and sporting events since July 2020. Through their expert knowledge of hosting clean and safe events, the OCCC is doing Business Better Than Usual. 
The Center continues to be a leader in safely hosting national sporting events. The world-renowned Amateur Athletic Union Volleyball Championship is one of the largest national sporting events hosted, with the OCCC hosting 135,000 attendees in June 2021. Parents and coaches love how easy it is to get in and out of Orlando – and the unparalleled support the OCCC has from the community and local leaders makes the Center the ideal place for any large sporting event.  
Florida: Palm Beach County 
Scott Glinski, Senior Business 
Development Manager
Palm Beach County Sports Commission
Scott Glinski, a Michigan native, graduated from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida with a degree in Business Administration, with a special concentration in Sports, Entertainment and Promotion Management. 
Scott joined the Palm Beach County Sports Commission in 2007. As the Senior Business Development Manager, Scott has consistently found innovative solutions to grow tourism in The Palm Beaches. Throughout his career in sports tourism, he has had the privilege of working with many different types of events and projects including The Honda Classic, Winter Equestrian Festival, NCAA Golf National Championships and the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award which is given annually to the nation’s best place-kicker in Division I collegiate football. 
Scott is proud to promote world-class venues and facilities such as Florida Atlantic University Stadium, International Polo Club and two MLB Spring Training stadiums that play host to the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Glinski believes the Palm Beach County Sports Commission is dedicated to providing an excellent experience and unsurpassed level of customer service, while inviting you to “Just Bring Your Game and Discover The Palm Beaches.”
For more information, contact Scott at 
sglinski@palmbeachsports.com or 561-233-3182. 
Illinois: Chicago Northwest 
Melinda Garritano, 
Senior Account Executive
Meet Chicago Northwest
Melinda Garritano is a Senior Account Executive for Meet Chicago Northwest (MCNW) representing the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Since 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 has participated in youth and adult team sports. 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 competitions. Events Melinda has worked with include the annual Chicago Dragon Boat Festival, karate, weightlifting, cheer and dance. These events were hosted in the Schaumburg Convention Center and area hotels. MCNW is looking forward to hosting speed climbing events at the new First Ascent.
For more information on venues and unique space to host events, contact Melinda at mgarritano@chicagonorthwest.com. 
Illinois: Chicago Southland
Kristy Stevens, Sports 
Market Manager
Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau
With 21 years of Chicago Southland CVB experience, Sports Market Manager Kristy Stevens has the pulse of what’s happening in the region. 
“I love this area and everything it has to offer, not only to residents but visitors and event planners as well,” says Stevens, who was born and raised in the Chicagoland area.
Incredibly well-rounded, Stevens previously worked in event services, tour & travel, and the SMERF (social, military, educational, religious and fraternal groups) markets before being promoted to the Sports Market Manager in September of 2020. That experience makes Kristy the perfect source for adding additional events/tours/meetings to the Chicago Southland sports experience. 
With the Chicago Southland CVB’s wide array of services, fantastic venues, rich history of hosting sporting events, and Kristy’s versatility, event owners are sure to experience the MVP treatment when booking their sporting event in the Chicago Southland.
With a heart of gold, Kristy is a regular at animal shelters where she’s added two rescue dogs and three rescue cats to her family. An avid outdoorswoman, you’ll often find her camping throughout the Midwest when she isn’t attending one of her five grandkids’ sporting events. 
Illinois: Champaign County
Ryan Reid, CMP
The Rantoul Family Sports Complex
Ryan graduated from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in Public Relations and Communication. After working at the University of Illinois for several years, Ryan found his passion in tourism. Ryan joined the Rantoul Family Sports Complex as Director of Sports Operations in the Summer of 2020, less than a year before the facility opened. Prior, Ryan worked for Visit Champaign County as Director of Sports, ran the Champaign County Film Office, and held a position as Meeting Manager with the American Oil Chemist Society. 
While at Visit Champaign County, Ryan worked with Rantoul leadership on the feasibility study for the Rantoul Family Sports Complex. As Director, Ryan follows through with those plans and concepts to make RFSC successful. Throughout his career, Ryan has mixed his love of sports and understanding of Hospitality and Tourism to welcome visitors to his community. 
Working with the Illinois Marathon, IHSA Championships, and USYS are a few of his favorite moments in his career. When he’s not at the complex, Ryan can be found spending time with his wife and two children, playing soccer, watching Illini Basketball or moonlighting as an area DJ.
For more information, contact Ryan Reid at
217-893-5731 or rreid@myrantoul.com. 
Terrance (Terry) Hasseltine, STS, CTA
Executive Director – Maryland 
Sports Commission
President – Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland & 
Baltimore-Maryland 2026
Vice President – Maryland Stadium Authority
Terry Hasseltine was hired in July 2008 as the Executive Director of Maryland Sports, joined the Maryland Stadium Authority leadership team as Vice President of Marketing and Communication in 2014 and took the reins of the newly formed non-profit, the Sports and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland, in 2019.  
He was instrumental in creating the TEAM Maryland (statewide) initiative and the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance (MAASA) (lower eastern shore). Additionally, he has served as the chairman of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC, now Sports Events and Tourism Association – Sports ETA) from April 2013-April 2014. 
Prior to coming to Maryland, Hasseltine was deputy executive director of the Kentucky Sports Authority.  He received his B.S. in Sports Management (and Communications) from the State University of New York College at Cortland and is accredited as a Sports Tourism Strategist (STS) from the National Association of Sports Commissions. In addition, he holds the Certified Tourism Network’s accreditation of Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA).
Nebraska: Lincoln
Derek Bombeck, Sales Development Manager | Sports Market
Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau
Event owners (and anyone in the sport tourism industry) would be hard pressed to find someone 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.
North Carolina: Cabarrus County 
Jarrod Rabatin, Sales Manager, Sports/SMERF
Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau
As Sports Sales Manager for the Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Jarrod showcases the versatile venues and unique offerings across Cabarrus County. Located just 30 minutes northeast of Charlotte and renowned for auto racing, the area has a sports scene with top-of-the-line indoor and outdoor venues for competition of all kinds.
With recent enhancements, Cabarrus County is home to five locations with turf fields. Of these, the West Cabarrus Campus features three fields — one stadium field and two practice fields — along with a DynaFast Track. All facilities are in close proximity to each other and over 30 hotels to accommodate all budgets and group sizes. With historic downtowns, thrilling attractions and more, the area offers a variety of outstanding dining, shopping, and entertainment options for attendees to enjoy.
A graduate of  The Pennsylvania State University, Jarrod joined the Cabarrus County CVB in 2019 with almost ten years of hotel sales. He also worked with the NC Department of Marine Fisheries and has held various roles in planning and operations for fishing tournaments in both Florida and North Carolina. 
For more information, contact Jarrod at
Jarrod@VisitCabarrus.com or 704-456-7972.
Ohio: Shores & Islands
Chris Lewis, Marketing & Sales Director
Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands
Chris Lewis joined Shores & Islands Ohio in 2019 as the Sports Tourism Manager and has been instrumental in helping grow the region’s reputation as America’s Sports & Family Fun Capital through collaborative efforts with partners such as the Cedar Point Sports Center and Sports Force Parks.
In 2022, Chris transitioned to become the Marketing & Sales Director at Shores & Islands Ohio. He is accountable for developing and directing implementation of organization-wide initiatives that advance the narrative of the Shores & Islands destination and brand locally, regionally and nationally in order to increase the number of leisure, group, sport and event visitors. 
Chris has a bachelor’s in Sports Management and Business Administration from Baldwin Wallace University and a master’s from Georgetown University. He brings over 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. 
Pennsylvania: Hershey and Harrisburg
Gregg Cook, Executive Director
Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority
Gregg Cook has a sports story for every local sports venue – a tie-in for every local sports occasion. He grew up in the Hershey Harrisburg region and he’s gone from buying $2.00 tickets when the Hershey Bears® played at historic Hersheypark® Arena to playing a key role in attracting the US Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships to the state-of-the-art Giant CenterSM three times over. 
As Executive Director of the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority, a division of Visit Hershey & Harrisburg, Gregg leads a team committed to providing clients with support before, during and post-event. Prior to HHSE’s launch in 2016, Gregg was the tourism bureau’s Sports Marketing Manager for 13 years and also worked with the Harrisburg Heat soccer team, Harrisburg Senators baseball, and Hershey Bears® hockey. 
For more information, contact Gregg at
717-231-2990, gregg@hhsportsandevents.com 
or www.hhsportsandevents.com. 
Texas: Round Rock
Nancy Yawn, Director
Round Rock, Texas Convention & Visitors Bureau
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 Sports Tourism Specialist (STS) 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 recent years, Yawn was named several times as one of the top 50 planners in the United States by Sports Events magazine as well as Who’s Who in Leadership by Sports Destination Management magazine.
Wyoming: Gillette-Campbell County
Jessica Seders, Executive Director
Gillette-Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau
In 2010, Jessica Seders relocated to Gillette from Southern Illinois with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Janie and Nathan. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale and an MBA from Lindenwood University. 
Jessica was hired as the first executive director of Gillette Main Street in 2014. In this role she develops and administers the Main Street Program through economic development, historic preservation, community relations and strengthening the relationships between businesses, consumers and the local government. 
In 2019, the Campbell County Lodging Tax Joint Powers Board and the Gillette Main Street Board announced a partnership of the two entities under the direction of one Executive Director. Jessica was named to serve as Executive Director of both organizations overseeing Campbell County’s tourism and marketing programs, as well as the revitalization and economic development efforts of downtown Gillette. “I look forward to the continued partnerships and collaboration efforts to grow our economy through tourism and increased sales for our local businesses. Sports tourism is one of the best markets to pursue in tourism for impactful growth! Gillette is a fast-growing sports destination and we welcome you to come PLAY GILLETTE.”

About the Author