Need a Who’s Who? Here’s Your Go-To | Sports Destination Management

Need a Who’s Who? Here’s Your Go-To

May 22, 2014 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

From the drawing board to the playing field, and from the tailgate to the trophy, you want a successful event. To get that, you need a savvy partner: someone who knows the city, the venues, the infrastructure – even the after-hours options – for the city you’ll be visiting. In short, what you need is an insider – someone you can trust with the details of your event.

Here at Sports Destination Management, we’re happy to make your decision-making just a little easier. On these pages you’ll find a listing of some of the industry’s most successful professionals at CVBs, sports commissions and more. They and the support staffs at their respective organizations have the connections, the resources and the experience to take your event from concept to box score, and to give your athletes and their families and friends a great experience along the way.

The professionals shown here are from a wide range of areas in the U.S. so you’re sure to find someone in the area you’re thinking of visiting. Of course, that only leaves one question: what are you waiting for? Expertise is only a phone call – or a mouse-click – away.

Brian Ambuehl and Dee Mittman
Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Brian Ambuehl joined the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1999 as the North Carolina state sales manager. He transitioned to sports sales manager in 2004. Over the last decade, he has been monumental in securing various sporting events.

To market Greensboro as a premier sports destination, Brian has worked diligently to bring regional, national and international championships. He has successfully coordinated major sporting events including National Championships with both AAU and USSSA programs, A T & T American Cup Gymnastics, USA Synchronized Swimming Olympic Trials and much more.

Brian is an active member of SportsNC, an organization that is dedicated to strengthening and maintaining North Carolina’s rich sports legacy, and served as the Chairman from 2011-2013. Since 2004, Brian has been a member of NASC and has served on the Symposium Committee and the Site Selection Committee, which reviews and selects host cities for the Symposium.

With over 10 years of sports marketing experience, Dee Mittman joined our team in late 2013 as a sports sales manager. Dee comes to us with a wealth of knowledge in the sports marketing and hospitality industry. Dee is an active member of NASC and SportsNC.

To learn more about Greensboro, visit

Terra Alphonso, CMP
Branson, Missouri
Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

A native of Missouri, Terra Alphonso is a graduate of Missouri State University with a Master’s in Business Administration and a Certified Meeting Professional. Her nearly 15 years of experience has included work on both the planner and supplier side of the industry.  Early in her career, Terra worked with a team of five to organize and manage a four-day music festival that hosted approximately 20 artists each year including the Charlie Daniels Band, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others.

As the assistant director for Sports and Convention Sales at the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Terra enjoys promoting the live shows, family fun and outdoor adventure offered in the Ozark Mountains to sports groups and meeting planners throughout the country by showcasing the world-class convention center, a cutting edge Rec Plex, several versatile theaters equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, championship golf courses, plus cold and warm water fishing.

While promoting the Branson/Lakes Area Terra has enjoyed the opportunity to work with organizers of events including: Mastercraft Pro-Wakeboard King of Wake tour, B.A.S.S. on their Open and Elite series events, FLW, Revolution 3, the USSSA Boys and Girls World Series, Stage One and Jamfest to name a few.

Joleen Cacciatore, CSEE
Gainesville, Florida
Gainesville Sports Commission

Joleen Cacciatore joined the Gainesville Sports Commission (GSC) in 2006 and was named GSC’s executive director in September 2013, after her interim period was completed.

“It is an honor to be a part of the success Gainesville Sports Commission has had,” Joleen stated.

This past year, under Joleen’s leadership, the GSC brought in over $16 million in economic impact and over 44,000 room nights into the City of Gainesville and Alachua County.

An active member of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), Joleen received her Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) certification in 2011. She is a graduate of the Leadership Gainesville program and was awarded by the Gainesville-based magazine, Home: Living in the Heart of Florida, as one of the its inaugural "13 Going on 30" award recipients. She was chosen for her professional accomplishments in the sports tourism industry, as well as her ability to contribute to the area's community and charitable efforts.

Joleen attended Florida Southern College on volleyball scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications/advertising. In 2012, while working at the GSC as the associate executive director, she earned her Master of Science (M.S.) in sports management from the University of Florida.

For more information, visit

Gregg Cook
Harrisburg and Hershey, Pennsylvania
Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau

The Hershey Harrisburg region is a leading sports destination for athletic events and tournaments. Repeatedly named THE Top Minor League Sports Market, the region boasts a variety of quality facilities coupled with world-class attractions and entertainment in an affordable and easily accessible setting.  Home to prestigious sports teams supporting huge fan bases like the Hershey Bears (AHL Hockey) and the Harrisburg Senators (AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals), this sports destination continues to grow and expand.

Sports planners, athletic directors and club managers have come to heavily rely on the expertise of Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau (HHRVB) sports marketing manager, Gregg Cook, and his vast knowledge of the region’s best facilities along with the unique understanding of a variety of sports special needs.

Cookie, as he is affectionately known to many industry partners, strategically negotiates the best available facilities and agreements possible for each sporting event based on the client’s sport and budget. If you have yet to work with Cookie, this is your chance to experience a winning business situation AND get a break on use of the bureau’s Sports Court Flooring housed at the multifaceted Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.

Contact Gregg Cook for complete details: or 717-231-2990.

Nancy Helman
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

A lifelong sports lover, Nancy Helman has been in the sports tourism business for more than 15 years. Her interest and passion made her the first female sports editor of the University of South Carolina’s newspaper and, following graduation, led her to work for a South Florida professional basketball team and sports commission.

A Virginia Beach native, Nancy is as passionate about the city as she is about sports and joined the team at the Virginia Beach CVB in time to help launch the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in 2000. Since then, she has worked with national governing bodies and events, including USA Field Hockey, USA Fencing, USA Gymnastics, USA Judo, USA Track and Field, USA Table Tennis, NCAA, NAIA, AAU, Little League International, Washington Redskins, US Finals and the National High School Coaches Association. She is Virginia Beach CVB’s director of sports marketing.

Central to Nancy’s career is her commitment to providing planners with the best service possible. “I have been in their shoes, and I respect their business. Not only do we offer state-of-the-art facilities, we provide the award-winning customer service they deserve. When we say, ‘Service is Our Sport,’ it’s not just a tagline, it’s truly a business practice.”

Carlos Hernandez
Lewisville, Texas
Lewisville Convention and Visitors Bureau

Carlos was born and raised in New York City and also lived in Mexico City where he started his hotel career while earning a bachelor's degree from the Mexican Tourism School.

Carlos spent nearly two decades with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, where one of the highlights of his career was being part of the bidding process to bring World Cup Soccer to the city in 1994. He joined the Lewisville Convention and Visitors Bureau in order to focus on sports tourism, and he understands what sports like soccer and baseball can mean as an economic impact generator to cities of all sizes.

According to Carlos, if any city has the right infrastructure for sports tourism, meaning the combination of hotels, restaurants, right size and amount of sports venues and accessibility, there is potential of pursuing the sports tourism market. In addition, he notes, the human element is key, and that great can result in a unique and memorable experience to everyone.

Lewisville, between Dallas and Ft Worth and just a few minutes DFW International Airport, has more than 2,400 hotel rooms, over 150 restaurants and outstanding indoor and outdoor sports facilities.

Go to and click on “Sports Tourism.”

Tarah Holland
Franklin County, Virginia

Tarah Holland is the tourism development manager for Franklin County, Virginia.          

Prior to joining Franklin County in 2013, she served as a visitor services specialist for the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau in Roanoke, Virginia, and as the public relations/social media manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Holland, a Franklin County native, is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. With an academic background in journalism, Holland began as a reporter for newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Louisiana.

In her new role, Holland is responsible for all aspects of tourism marketing in an effort to spur visitation, increase consumer spending and stimulate economic growth. Her duties include public relations, publicity campaigns, advertising and special events. She also is the liaison for county-hosted fishing tournaments.

In March, Holland earned the Southeast Tourism Society’s Travel Marketing Professional designation. She is secretary of the Blue Ridge Travel Association, a board member and executive committee member of the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, a board member of The Crooked Road, chair of the Franklin County Agricultural Fair Planning Committee, and a member of the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Gen Howard
Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

Gen Howard is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and received a B.A. from Western Kentucky University. She is the senior sports manager for the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, promoting Louisville as a premier sports destination for five years. Gen has helped grow sports tourism into one of the largest room night generators for the city.

Gen works closely with the Louisville Sports Commission to provide a paramount customer experience for the rights holder, athletes and spectators from bid process to post-event evaluation.

“But it doesn’t stop there” Gen says. “It takes many local partnerships including colleges and universities, convention centers, parks and recreation and other key groups to execute and deliver that top-notch sports experience in your city.”

Gen says the key to success is creating long-lasting partnerships with the rights holders that create value and success for both client and destination. She was named one of Connect’s 2013 40 under 40 and is a recent graduate of the Ignite Louisville Leadership Program. Gen is also active in the National Association of Sports Commissions and serves on the Sports Legacy Committee. In her spare time, Gen enjoys running, biking, gardening and being a cheerleader for her boys in their sports programs.

William R. Knox
Hamilton County, Indiana
Hamilton County Tourism, Inc.

William R. Knox was born in Gary, Indiana. After becoming a four-sport letterman at Gary West Side High School, he went on to receive his B.S. in sports marketing with a minor in business from Indiana University in 1999. After completing his undergraduate career, he accepted a position as the director of sports marketing with the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau. Later, he became the director of the Hoosier Sports Corporation.

Currently, William is the director of sports development for Hamilton County Tourism Inc., where he also serves as director of the Hamilton County Sports Authority (HCSA). The HCSA, a division of Hamilton County Tourism, Inc., oversees marketing, development, sales and management for sporting events that come to the county.

William has served in a variety of leadership positions including:

·         Past president of Sports Indiana, the state’s collaborative sports development organization

·         Past board member of the National Association of Sports Commissioners (NASC)

·         Served on the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee

 William has completed the Certified Sports Event Executive program through the NASC and he is in the process of completing his Destination Management Executive leadership certification through Destination Marketing Association International.

Michael Krouse, CASE, CMP, CHME
Ontario, California
Ontario Convention Center & Visitors Bureau

SMG and the City of Ontario welcomes Michael Krouse CASE, CMP, CHME, as the new president and CEO of the Ontario Convention Center & Visitors Bureau. Krouse is the former senior vice president of sales and client services for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LATCB). In this position, he managed meeting and convention sales, client services departments and had direct oversight of the LATCB citywide convention sales.

Krouse has over 20 years of experience in a variety of senior hotel sales management roles. He was the vice president of sales and marketing for Interstate Hotels and Resorts, and regional director of sales and marketing-West for Hilton Hotels Corporation.

“With his more than two decades of experience Michael has a proven track record of success in the hospitality and convention center business,” said Bob McClintock, senior vice president Operations at SMG.

Krouse has served as a board member for the UCLA Extension Executive Hotel Program, Creativity Advisory Council and Los Angeles Hotel/Motel Association. He is a member of the Professional Convention Management Association, American Society of Association Executives, Meeting Professionals International and the Convention Industry Council.

Anissa Ladd
Hartford, Connecticut
Connecticut Convention Center

Having joined the Connecticut Convention Center in 2006, Anissa Ladd has worked the sports market for the past eight years. She has an extensive hospitality background and bringing her love of sports into her job has proven to be a successful combination for the City of Hartford and the Connecticut Convention Center. Tasked with finding sports conventions and tournaments, Anissa has worked with diverse events and developed strong, long-lasting relationships with event producers who return to Hartford year after year. As the current president of Middletown Little League, she has the unique perspective of both a sales person and an event producer herself.

“The Connecticut Convention Center and Hartford have been an ideal fit for cheerleading and dance competitions as well as coaching conventions, large regional volleyball showcases, fencing events and even bass fishing tournaments,” she says.

Anissa has secured New England Region Volleyball Association for two events per year through 2017, Varsity Brands through 2016 and has booked both national and regional coaching conventions. With 140,000 square feet of exhibit space and 65,000 square feet of meeting space, the Connecticut Convention Center is a Northeastern venue that caters to many different types of sporting events and conventions. Learn more at

Kailey Love
Peoria, Illinois
Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Kailey Love, sports sales manager, has been with the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau since February 2013, but has worked in the hospitality industry for more than seven years. She is a skilled runner and knowledgeable in all things sports.

Kailey is an active member of the Young Professionals of Greater Peoria, a group that last year, was instrumental in having Peoria named an All-America City for the fourth time by the National Civic League. During her tenure with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kailey has worked diligently to secure five significant sporting events as well as sustaining the existing sports clientele. Her extensive knowledge of the competitive sports market allows her to communicate with all levels of sporting event planners. The ability to develop relationships with the area’s more than 19 sporting venues and 42 hotels has created a seamless process, allowing sports planners to choose Peoria as their destination.

Due to the Peoria Area’s growth and expansion over the past 10 years, many new developments now call Peoria home. Most recently announced was the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, opening spring of 2015. This adds to the many area amenities, ensuring plenty of opportunities for activities outside of sporting events.

Leah Mitcham
Mooresville, North Carolina
Mooresville Convention & Visitors Bureau

Leah Mitcham, executive director of the Mooresville CVB, has the bases covered for hosting sporting events. She knows that executing winning events takes more than just the right fields and venues. Leah has the right contacts to help make events hassle-free and brings both experience and a genuine love of sports to the table.

Over her seven years in the industry, she has worked with organizations both big and small and has coordinated with regional, statewide and national events. Some highlights of Mooresville-hosted events include the “King of Wake” Mastercraft Pro Wakeboard Tour, multiple FLW and ABA bass fishing tournaments, Powerade State Games and the annual Lake Norman Soccer Fall Classic. Soccer as well as water sports on beautiful Lake Norman have long been a stronghold for sporting events in Mooresville.

Thanks to the development of excellent new facilities, the Mooresville CVB has expanded into wrestling, cycling, karting, baseball, softball, gymnastics, disc golf, basketball and martial arts. Beyond the new venues, a mild climate, desirable location, awesome hotels and fun stuff to do ensure a memorable experience for participants, all served with a side of warm southern hospitality. So score big – give Leah a call, and bring your game to Mooresville, North Carolina.

Terry Paulson
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Badger Region Volleyball Association

Terry Paulson, tournament director of Wisconsin’s Badger Region Volleyball Association (BVRA), has been a key player on the state’s amateur sports scene for more than 20 years.  Paulson brings a wealth of experience, dedication and enthusiasm to BVRA, one of 40 regions of USA Volleyball recognized by the United States Olympic Committee. With a background including years of coaching and administrative positions to BVRA tournament director for the last 10 years, Terry has presided over a period of incredible growth of volleyball in Wisconsin. Reflecting this growth is the fact that the BRVA Championships began with 100 teams and has increased to 445 teams in its recent 11th year at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee.

Terry Paulson has won numerous national and regional awards for his service. His penchant for coffee and hand-written notes and charts has helped the Badger Region Championships become the outstanding event that it is today.

According to Paulson, “This is some of the best boys/girls club and high school volleyball in the nation. Southeast Wisconsin is a hotbed for the sport and for college recruiting.” 

Wisconsin salutes the hard work and passion of Terry Paulson and looks forward to working with him and BVRA for many years to come.

Nicole Rissler
Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota County Sports Commission

Nicole Rissler is director of sports for the Sarasota County Sports Commission, a division of the tourism entity, Visit Sarasota County. Rissler is extremely passionate about sports tourism and has spearheaded a 40 percent increase in sports-related economic impact for the county in 2013. This equated to a whopping $71 million in economic impact.

With a mission to position Sarasota County as the must-experience sports destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast and a mandate to raise the bar on county-held amateur sporting events, Rissler helped the region secure the bid for the 2017 World Rowing Championships to be held at Nathan Benderson Park. 

In 2013, Rissler helped lure high-level events to Sarasota including the USA Ultimate Masters Championships, US Soccer Winter Showcase, Pan Am Masters Swimming  and USRowing Masters Championships.

Rissler has big plans for 2014 with an exciting line-up including YMCA Masters Swimming National Championships, State BMX Championships and the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival.

“We are extremely excited about the amazing success we are having in regards to sports tourism. With our beautiful weather, world class beaches and sporting events that encompass everything from national and world championships to international boutique events, who wouldn’t want to play here?” asks Rissler.

Kelly Sayre, CSEE
St. Cloud, Minnesota
St. Cloud Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Kelly Sayre is in her seventh year as director of sports & special events of the St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).  Sayre was awarded the 2012 Can-Am Police-Fire Games, an international multi-sport competition for public safety personnel and was an Executive Board member for the local organizing committee.

She is the treasurer of Minnesota Sports, a statewide coalition of sports directors that work to promote Minnesota as a premier sporting event destination.  Sayre locally serves on the March of Dimes Chefs Auction and Earth Day Half Marathon, both local community events.  She is the past president of the Emerging Leaders Forum of St. Cloud and works on the Star of the North State Games when they are held in St. Cloud. 

Sayre is 2007 Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans award recipient, 2012 Collinson Media & Events, National 40 under 40 Meetings Industry Professionals honoree and completed her Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) certification in 2010.  She is also a member of the local FEW, Forum of Executive Women.

R. Ron Sertz
Erie, Pennsylvania
Erie Sports Commission

R. Ron Sertz was named the first executive director of the Erie Sports Commission (ESC) in November 2010 after a study by VisitErie led to the organization of the commission. His development of the organization’s framework and establishment of initial relationships helped attract and grow more than 25 events resulting in over $6 million in estimated economic impact within the first 18 months. Under his leadership, the ESC is hosting over 35 events in 2014, anticipated to bring an economic impact of more than $16 million to the Erie region. Those successes led to the Erie Sports Commission being named as the 2014 National Sports Commission of the Year by NASC.

A veteran of Erie sports, Sertz has been instrumental in the formation, direction and guidance of many sporting organizations and events in the Erie tri-state region. He’s led organizations in the Ontario Hockey League and the NBA, has been the Director of the McDonald’s Classic and headed the LOC of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Championship. The Erie Times-News recognized Sertz as the most influential person in Erie area sports, and he also holds the distinction of being the only two-time recipient of an Erie “Legend” award for Best Performance in a Leading Role in Sports.

Joel Vazquez
Laredo, Texas
Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Joel Vazquez is the sports & tourism sales manager for the Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau. With more than 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Joel has a key role in the LCVB.

Venues like Uni-Trade Stadium, home of Laredo’s baseball team, the Lemurs, or the Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course create new opportunities to bring more groups and teams to the city. The new golf course, with its Robert Trent Jones II design, caught national attention within its first year, being named one of Golfweek’s Best Municipal Courses in 2013.

As a result of Joel’s efforts, Laredo was able to host the colorful and popular Color Vibe 5K in January 2014. That event used the baseball stadium as the location of their famous after-run party.

Joel began as a student intern at the CVB and performed different roles throughout the years; this gave  him a perspective of the services the CVB offers as well as its interaction with the visitors. He works to promote Laredo as a sports tournament destination and a great option for leisure travelers. With his knowledge of both the industry and the city, he provides potential customers with the tools they need to create an event to remember.

Chris Wilson
Jefferson City, Missouri
Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau

Drive, strategy, dedication - just a few words describing how Chris Wilson became successful not only on the basketball court but in his career as sports sales manager for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Following his tenure on the Westminster College basketball team, Chris worked in sales, then took his love of the game to a coaching position at a local high school. Chris’ passion for his hometown and all things sports-related makes him a key asset for the industry.

In conjunction with the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Department, Chris brings major events to the community such as Special Olympics, Capital City Cross Country Challenge and the Color Vibe 5K. He is the liaison for the Athletic Events Committee, an invaluable group of local residents volunteering their time and energy for signature sporting events such as Missouri State High School Activities Association Track and Field Championships; and Jefferson City Outdoors, a group of outdoor enthusiasts who promote events involving the city’s natural resources such as Missouri American Water’s Race to the Dome while creating new events such as the Prison Break Race.

Visit our website and contact Chris Wilson to help you host a successful sporting event in Jefferson City.



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