Taking Sports Marketing To The Next Level
By Selena Chavis
Having hosted a plethora of sporting events for more than 25 years, the city of Decatur, Ill., recently took steps to augment its sports marketing efforts by expanding the resources of its convention and visitors bureau (CVB).
“It’s grown because we’ve dedicated someone to be a sports marketing person. We’ve gotten into a lot of new markets,” said Denene Wilmeth, executive director of the Decatur Area CVB, noting that the addition of staff is a natural progression in light of a growing amateur sports industry that needs more venues and lodging facilities.
Located in the heart of Illinois, just east of Springfield, Decatur has a long history of hosting a number of major sporting events, including track and field, golf, softball, swimming and gymnastics. “In 2009, we will mark our 25th year of involvement with the Duramed Futures (women’s golf) Tour,” Wilmeth said. The region has also worked with such entities as USA Track and Field for youth and senior events, as well as the American Softball Association and the American Fastpitch Association.
According to CVB reports, sports events in 2007 contributed to more than 3,570 room nights in 2007 for approximately $859,000. “Those are just the overnight visitors that we knew about…it’s a low estimate,” Wilmeth said.
The CVB partners with local universities, civic complexes and the school district to make appropriate sports venues available and provides volunteer services for amateur events. “We have a really good group of people in our community, and we have built great relationships with the park district and with groups on the state and national levels,” she said.
The 4,080-seat Griswold Center at Millikin University hosts basketball and volleyball and features a 25-yard swimming pool with six lanes and seating for 300. Frank M. Lindsay Field, also at Millikin University, includes a 400-meter track with seating for 2,500 and a regulation-size football field with seating for 3,000.
Decatur Civic Center’s regulation ice rink often hosts ice skating and ice hockey events, and the facility can be used for wrestling events as well. The center can seat 3,200 people, concert style.
In addition, Decatur Park District operates Nelson Park, Fairview Park and the Decatur Indoor Sports Center (DISC), as well as 34 basketball courts, 18 volleyball courts, 40 tether ball courts, 40 tennis courts (20 lighted), 46 ball fields (18 lighted), 30 neighborhood parks, 14 soccer fields, six community parks, four public golf courses and a horseback riding complex.
Wilmeth said Fairview Park’s Fairview Tennis Complex is regarded as one of the best outdoor facilities in the state, and DISC is the only facility of its kind in central Illinois. The 87,000-square-foot DISC includes a four-lane competition-graded track, two indoor soccer fields, five basketball and volleyball courts, a climbing and rappelling wall, and two batting cages.
Decatur is also home to the only convention hotel outside of the Chicago suburbs, Wilmeth said. The 370-room Decatur Conference Center and Hotel can accommodate groups of up to 2,000. Twelve additional limited-service hotels are also available in the region.
For more information about sporting events, lodging or venues in Decatur, visit www.experiencedecatur.com.