CA City Considers New Sports Commission

Does Riverside need a $100k sports commission?

By: Alicia Robinson
The Press-Enterprise
RIVERSIDE, California
July 7, 2012

The company that runs Riverside’s convention center could start promoting the city as a sports mecca, if the council approves adding $100,000 to the company’s existing contract. More on that contract with Entrepreneurial Hospitality Corp. in a moment – but first, what is this proposed “sports commission,” and what would it do?

The idea was proposed by Entrepreneurial Hospitality Corp., according to this staff report. (EHC is one of Mission Inn owner Duane Roberts’ various corporate ventures.) The report suggests the commission could capitalize on the new aquatics complex (a joint venture between the city and Riverside Community College District) and recent and upcoming youth sports tournaments.

The sports commission would market the city and its sports venues, find sponsors and otherwise help arrange competitions, seek to develop new venues and the like.

“I think it’s very clear that there’s a large market for sporting events in Riverside,” Councilman Mike Gardner said when asked about the proposal. He’s on the council’s development committee, which agreed June 21 to recommend council approval of the commission and the necessary funding.

The city already hosts large AYSO and club soccer events, the aquatics center has drawn national swimming and diving competitions, and UC Riverside just opened a new track and field facility, Gardner said. (The city also recently requested proposals for a developer to build, manage and pay for a soccer complex to replace the aging Ab Brown fields; the project could include a stadium with up to 15,000 seats.)

Gardner also mentioned the closure of the convention center for an expansion project. Though some events are being booked at the municipal auditorium in the interim, “I think it’s unquestionable that there will be some loss of convention and travel business,” he said. “To the extent we can backfill that business with sporting event business, that’s good for our hotels, our restaurants, (and) the city in general.”

The council still has to vote to approve the extra $100k that would be paid to EHC, but the staff report says it’s already budgeted. The 2012-13 budget includes $1.5 million for the convention center management fee and marketing contract – I assume that includes the sports commission money, but there’s no line item for it, so I’m not positive.

Hats off to EHC for figuring out ways to improve their bottom line even with the convention center closed for the next year and a half. This year’s budget lists their management fee as $300k (they are booking the municipal auditorium, as noted above) – I’m not sure what may have changed since November 2009, when the council voted to renew the company’s contract through March 2015. At that time, they were earning $125k for convention center operations and maintenance and $975k for “business development activities.” (So, the totals were $1.1 million/year in 2009 vs. $1.5m/year in 2012.)

Is the sports commission a good idea that will help bring people and revenue to Riverside, or an overly optimistic and costly expense at a time when the city can ill afford it? Feel free to comment below.