With more than one million people in the metropolitan area, Louisville, home of the famed Louisville Slugger and the world-renowned Kentucky Derby, can no longer claim the title of small town, though as a visitor treated to their hospitality and endless possibilities, you'd never know it.
Louisville has remained true to the 135-year-old roots of the Kentucky Derby by perfecting the art of planning and executing highly successful sports events. The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau works hand-in-hand with the Louisville Sports Commission to provide the highest caliber of sports expertise to rights owners and NGBs. This partnership ensures that every sports event gets the full support it deserves.
And while it's one thing for a city to explain what it has to offer, it's the sports event owners themselves who line up to sing the praises of the city. And that's a whole other thing.
U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross
One of America's most prominent cyclocross events, the 2010 U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross, calls Louisville home. But the city is more than home for just one event in this quickly growing sport. In 2013, Louisville will make cyclocross history by welcoming the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Elite Cyclocross World Championships, marking the first time the World Championships have been held outside of Europe in the 60+year history of the event.
"Back in 2007, we were looking for a new market to move into, and we were aware that Louisville had a nontraditional emerging market," says Joan Hanscom, U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross Series event director. "I had met the people from Louisville's sports commission, and they made an impression of really wanting your event there. That's important. You definitely want to go where you're wanted."
Hanscom is an expert in cyclocross, but in the last several years, she's learned a good bit about Louisville as well. "Whatever they undertake, they commit fully to it, and they do a great job. It's been very rewarding working with them. They've been great partners to us, and I've seen that executed over a variety of other disciplines as well."
Ford Ironman Louisville
Each year, more than 80,000 athletes compete for slots to the Ford Ironman World Championship held every October, and in 2010, 200 of the 2,500 Ford Ironman Louisville athletes did it in Louisville.
"It's not easy to put on an Ironman in a downtown area, but the way Louisville is laid out, and just everything the city has to offer, makes it the perfect location," says Joanna Meyers, event director. "Louisville is one of my favorites."
Finding the right location to hold an Ironman can be a serious challenge, given the size and scope of the event.
"It's a big deal, and a huge accomplishment for our athletes, and that requires an even bigger event," says Meyers. "We always have four to five days of activities, including a three-day expo, a welcome dinner and an awards dinner. We also have to recruit three to four thousand volunteers to help with the week."
This kind of production requires the expertise and support of a city that knows how to orchestrate a successful large event, and with its century-plus of Derby experience, Louisville is exactly that kind of city. "The sports commission is just great to work with. They're well respected in the community, and they get what we're doing. And that makes it easy for us."
"We held the PGA championships here for the first time in 1996, and it sold out," says Ben Rubin, championships director, PGA of America. "It was the first time the event ever sold out."
After that, Louisville and the PGA were off to the races. Several championships later, including the 2000 PGA Championships, 2004 Senior PGA Championships and the 2008 Ryder Cup, the PGA was seriously sold on the city. With more than 20 major annual events all across America, the PGA knows its events, knows its cities, and it likes what it found in Louisville. They liked it so much, the PGA of America bought their own little piece of it, the Valhalla Golf Club.
"The thing is, Louisville knows how to run big events. Everything is in place, thanks to events like the Kentucky Derby, to ensure that any event can be a big success in Louisville," says Rubin. "In a lot of cities, you run into red tape all over the place, but red tape just doesn't exist in Louisville. They say, what can we do to help you succeed, and whatever you need, they make it happen."
Building Something Together
In Louisville sports, the emphasis is on success, and that means building successful relationships.
"The sports market is always in the top three-to-five markets producing the most room nights for Louisville. With great relationships with our sports commission, universities and convention facilities, we can create the perfect package," says Karen Williams, Executive Vice President, Greater Louisville CVB. "With our new arena opening this October, combined with great space in our two convention centers and great sports facilities with University of Louisville, Bellarmine and our parks, we offer a variety of opportunities to the sports industry."
"Louisville is a destination you should consider because of the partnerships we create," says Greg Fante, Director of Sports Development, Greater Louisville Sports Commission. "We want to build relationships where our customers come back year after year."
Louisville's relationship-building prowess is well-known among its rights owners, but also among its partners within the city. "I think it goes without saying that there are a number of events we wouldn't be able to host if we didn't have the support of the sports commission and the CVB," says Josh Heird, Director of Championships, University of Louisville Athletics. "Whether it's finding volunteers or working to bring spectators to an event, we know we have their support. We just make a phone call and we know they'll do whatever they can do to make it happen."
A Look at Louisville's Facility Stars
Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), host to the National Senior Games, U.S. Transplant Games, Dew Action Sports Tour, and USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Girls & Boys Championship, is the 6th largest public facility of its kind with 1.3 million square feet of versatile and flexible space.
Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC),host to multiple sporting events including U.S. Fencing's North America Cup/Division I Championship & Division 1/Junior Cadet & Team NAC, USA Gymnastics Acrobatic Gymnastics Nationals, and NCAA Div II Elite Eight Basketball Championships, is located in the heart of downtown, adjacent to the 4th Street Live entertainment district and directly connected to 2,300 hotel rooms via a climate-controlled skywalk. KICC features over 300,000 square feet of meeting & exhibit space, 200,000 sq. feet column free, 30,000-square-foot ballroom, and 52 meeting rooms.
KFC Yum! Center is a brand new, state-of-the-art arena opening October 2010, located downtown on the waterfront, overlooking the Ohio River. The arena will seat 22,708 and feature over 700,000 square feet of space. Directly connected to 2,300 hotel rooms and the Kentucky International Convention Center via skywalk and within walking distance of 3,800 hotel rooms downtown, KFC Yum! Center is the future site of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball First & Second Round and NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championships.
A City Snapshot
Louisville is definitely a city worth getting to know. Here's a good start:
Accessibility. The Louisville airport is a five-minute drive to the Kentucky Exposition Center and a ten-minute drive to downtown, with 13,000 hotel rooms nearby.
Affordability. Louisville is consistently ranked as one of the nation's most affordable trade show destinations, offering a cost-effective option for any event.
Walkability. Attractions, hotels and restaurants in Louisville's downtown are all just mere blocks away from each other.
Connectivity. KFC Yum! Center, KICC, 2,300 hotel rooms and 4th Street Live! (Louisville's premiere entertainment and dining district) are all directly connected via a climate-controlled skywalk, with an additional 1,500 hotel rooms within walking distance.
The Big Three. Home to the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Muhammad Ali Center and Churchill Downs/Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville provides a one-of-a-kind sports experience that you cannot get anywhere else in the world.
Get to know Louisville a little bit better. Visit www.gotolouisville.com/sports for more information.