We just wrapped another amazing S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference with this year’s partner and host the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau in Panama City Beach, Fla.
More than 300 rights holders, suppliers and vendors attended the conference participating in more than 4,000 appointments in our unique 3:1 ratio event, Sept. 10-12.
We again had a healthy waiting list for attendees and planners who sought to attend but waited too late to register for our space-limited event. As we suggested two years ago, there is a buzz in the air, and we suggest early registration to insure space and attendance.
And if you haven’t already heard, the closing ceremonies and special announcement of next year’s conference location had attendees jumping up and down and cheering for a move west – this time to Colorado Springs, Colo., in late September.
More about next year in a moment. First, let me recap this year’s event and let you know what you might have missed in this action-packed few days of sports business.
As many of you might know, Panama City Beach on the Florida Panhandle was the target of last year’s Cat 5 Hurricane Michael, which made landfall to the east of the destination a few weeks after the announcement was made that S.P.O.R.T.S. would visit.
Throughout the year, the city and surrounding areas endured hardships in their personal and professional lives as they tried to rebuild this slice of paradise. A new sports complex was already in the works and our sports tourism attendees were making plans to attend, whether the city was ready or not.
As usual, early arrivals had the opportunity to participate in the Annual S.P.O.R.T.S. Golf Scramble at the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point, located at the Sheraton Panama City Beach, sponsored by Maryland Sports, or to join a catamaran cruise on St. Andrews Bay with Island Time Sailing sponsored by Destination Panama City.
Later that evening, we headed to the newly opened Panama City Beach Sports Complex for a “Welcome Carnival Spectacular” complete with cheerleaders, and drummers to welcome arrivals, pirates, flame-blowing beauties on stilts and a variety of food and beverage vendors to please all palettes. The fields were open for pick-up games of baseball or softball, basketball hoops challenged our crew and a D.J. cranked up the music and had us all dancing in the aisles as the evening unfolded.
The following morning, we enjoyed breakfast and a panel discussion on “What’s the Secret Sauce?” in addition to an espresso bar to get groggy eyes open.
One-on-One appointments followed and then the opening luncheon featured Kyrah Altman, founder of L.E.A.D., and then more one one-on-one.
A quick networking reception at the Sheraton gave everyone a chance to meet up in a more relaxed atmosphere at the end of the day before boarding buses for Pier Park to enjoy beer, wine and food at the Back Porch overlooking the majestic Gulf of Mexico and Panama City Beaches.
As prospects headed out into Pier Park for dinner with friends, an after-hours reception at Flip Flops at the Sheraton was preparing. Upon arrival back at the hotel, attendees enjoyed live music, lawn games and good conversation with friends before heading to bed for the evening.
The following morning, we enjoyed an early breakfast and the second part of the breakfast panel discussion “What’s the Secret Sauce?” – Part II and the espresso bar.
One-on-One appointments followed and then the Grand Annual Luncheon featured Coach Cliff Ellis, ACC/SEC Basketball Coach of the Year, who provided an emotional and compelling keynote address.
The final session of appointments followed, and attendees then boarded buses for Harpoon Harry’s for the closing ceremonies.
Harpoon Harry’s beachfront location provided the perfect setting for this year’s beach-themed conference. With multiple outdoor decks, indoor dining, bars and a wide expanse of white-sand beaches, attendees enjoyed bonfires, s’mores, daquiris, live beach music, a pirate raid, a mermaid, t-shirt spray painting, an award-winning buffet and plenty of time to spend time with old and new friends alike.
And as always, everyone waited with anticipation for the final grand announcement about the location of next year’s conference host city.
As attendees crowded the large dining area, our fearless founder, Talty O’Connor arrived in a white toga carrying a flaming torch as he made his way through the crowd where he revealed that S.P.O.R.T.S. – The Relationship Conference will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2020. That announcement brought cheers, hugs and excitement as conference-goers watched the video provided by VisitCOS.
During this Olympic year, it seems only fitting that the home of the U.S. Olympic Training Facilities and home to so many of the Team USA offices and new museum will make the perfect setting for this sports tourism conference.
So now you know where we’re headed. Official dates will be made available soon. Keep watching for updates and register early. This one will fill up fast.