USA Ultimate | Sports Destination Management

USA Ultimate

An Interview with Andy Lee, Managing Director-Marketing, Communications & Brand
Nov 01, 2019 | By: Andy Lee

Photo courtesy of UltiPhotos
USA Ultimate is the national governing body of Ultimate. Once known as Ultimate Frisbee, Ultimate is a non-contact sport played by single-gender and co-ed teams, and is popular at the youth, collegiate and adult levels. There is also a beach version of Ultimate, which is in its fifth year. At its highest level, the sport of Ultimate is governed by the World Flying Disc Federation.

One of the most unique aspect of Ultimate is what is known as “The Spirit of the Game.” Ultimate is self-refereed and relies upon a degree of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules or the basic joy of play.

Sports Destination Management: Ultimate is very popular as a college club sport.
Andy Lee: Yes, we have about 800-plus colleges with registered teams.

SDM: Are the students responsible for managing and fundraising for their own clubs?
Lee: Yes, because Ultimate is not traditionally a varsity sport, it isn’t funded by the universities. Some club sports departments do give some funding to clubs, but for many others, the cost of things like uniforms and travel fall on the players.

SDM: What tournaments are put on by USA Ultimate at the college level?
Lee: The way our college club structure works, the season runs from January to mid-April, with a handful of tournaments all over the country that kids travel to. Once that part of the season is over, teams work on qualifying for their conference championships, then regionals and then nationals.

SDM: There is adult play as well, too?
Lee: Yes, after college, we have our club division, which is primarily made up of adults in their early twenties to mid- to late thirties. There are about 650 teams across the country that play in the club division, which is set up for men’s, women’s and mixed teams. One of the unique things about Ultimate is that it’s one of the few team sports out there with mixed play.

Photo courtesy of Tino Tran
SDM: Are there women’s teams in college as well?
Lee: It’s primarily men’s teams at the college level but we are experimenting with mixed teams as well.

SDM: When you’re looking at locations to host larger tournaments such as national championships, what are you looking for?
Lee: There are a whole bunch of things we take into consideration, based on the size and scope of events. For nationals, we’re hosting 40 teams – that adds up to a lot of athletes. We need a venue that can support our competition structure, which means a certain number of high-quality fields. We prefer grass over turf, although that is changing quite rapidly since more parks and recreation departments are spending money on turf fields. We need to know there’s going to be support from the local CVB or sports commission; some markets are more supportive than others. We also look for a city with a local disc association that can bring in volunteers and help us run the event, which runs for four days straight. Good weather is obviously really important, as is proximity to a major airport, as well as restaurants and hotels for people to use.

SDM: If cities are interested in submitting a bid, how should they go about contacting USA Ultimate?
Lee: The best person in our group to talk to is one of our event managers, Byron Hicks. His contact information is listed on the staff section of our website.

SDM: Any ideas about the economic impact of an Ultimate event?
Lee: We don’t have exact figures but for our college national championships, we’re bringing in between 5,000 to 7,000 people who stay in the city for five nights and are using hotels and restaurants, which is good business.  SDM

About the Author