Overview of the NASC Symposium in Knoxville, Tenn.

By Sherri Middleton

Big news from this years’ symposium was the announcement of a new branding initiative that changes the name from NASC to SportsETA (Sports Events & Tourism Association) in a change designed to represent a more inclusive organization to lead the sports and event tourism industry and its members.

The National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) held this year’s symposium in Knoxville, Tenn., with more than 1,000 sports tourism representatives attending the event.

During the conference, a new leadership board was elected and includes: Janis Schmees Burke, CSEE, CEO, Harris County – Houston Sports Authority; Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, Michael Price, CSEE, Executive Director, Greater Lansing Sports Authority; Treasurer, Janis Ross, CSEE, Executive Director, Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports; Secretary, Don Dukemineer, CSEE, CHSP, Deputy Director of Sports Tourism, Foley Sports Tourism; immediate past Chair Kindra Fry, CSEE, SMP, President/CEO, Bryan College Station Sports + Events.

 “Knoxville was a terrific host city to convene our industry to discuss best practices, new trends and business opportunities,” said Al Kidd, president and CEO of the association.

Additional board members include Frank Lett, CSEE, Senior Associate Executive Director/Director of Sports Marketing, Visit Kingsport; Ray Palmer, CSEE, President/CEO, Pensacola Sports; J.D. Wood, CSEE, General Manager, Panama City Beach Sports Complex; Genevieve Howard, CSEE, Senior Sales Manager, Louisville Tourism; Derek Bombeck, CSEE, Sales Development Manager, Lincoln CVB; Josh Dill, CSEE, Director of Sports & Events, Frisco CVB; Brent Nelson, Sr. VP of Business Development, Central Florida Sports Commission; Ashleigh Bachert, CSEE, Executive Director, Durham Sports Commission; Matthew Libber, CSEE, Executive Director, Maryland SoccerPlex; Peter Harvey, CSEE, Director of Sports Development, Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission; Marissa Werner, CSEE, Senior Sports & Entertainment Manager, Visit Milwaukee; Hank Pivarnik, CSEE, Director of Sports Sales, Hilton Worldwide; Daniel Rush, CSEE, CMP, CASE, Vice President of Global Sports and Event Sales, MGM Resorts International; John David, CSEE, CEO, USA BMX and Christine Strong Simmons, Senior Director of Operations, USA Fencing.

Inducted into the new Hall of Fame class are Patricia Ernstrom, Vice President of Special Events, San Francisco 49ers; Jack Kelly, CEO, World Equestrian Games; Pam Gerig-Bland, Executive Director, Palm Beach County Sports Commission; and Kevin Smith, Founder of OnPoint Sports Strategies, LLC.

Industry honors went to: Sports Commission of the Year, Population over 500,000, Sports Minneapolis powered by Meet Minneapolis; Sports Commission of the Year, Population under 500,000, Spokane Sports Commission; Game Changer Award: Michelle Russ, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission; Destination Branding & Marketing Campaign of the Year, Rockford Area CVB; Event Marketing Campaign of the Year, Savannah Sports Council; Superior Service Award, TSE Consulting; Sports Tourism Organization of the Year, Population over 500,000, Visit Anaheim; Sports Tourism Organization of the Year, Under 5000,000 Population, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission; Sports Tourism Executive of the Year, George Linley, Palm Beach Sports Commission; Locally Created Event of the Year under 500,000: Rock Hill/York County; Locally Created Event of the Year Over 500,000: Louisville Sports Commission.

The Sports Legacy Fund Raised more than $20,000 for the non-profit DreamBikes, which places used bicycle stores in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods to provide hands-on, paid job training to teens. SportsEvents sponsored this year’s Sports Legacy Fund in addition to Orlando North Seminole County Sports.

The Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) graduates are: Jamie Patrick, Madison Area Sports Commission; Kristy Cox, USA Volleyball; Bill Bos, Best Western International; Danny Corte, Mobile Sports Authority; Mark Kowalewski, Visit Prince William; John Poole, Experience Kissimmee; Ashley Wilson, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism; Jeremy Leifel, Greater Columbus Sports Commission; Matthew Bosen, Visit Beloit; Daniel Gallagher, Meet AC; Kris Jackson, Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau; Kathy O’Connell, Eagan Convention & Visitors Bureau; Luchie Javelosa, Visit Tucson; Jarrett Dowling, Experience Columbia, SC Sports; Al Stauffacher, Twin Cities Gateway; Consuelo Sanchez, Pasco County; Shaheen Roostai, Riverside CVB; Sarah Kirchberg, MGM Resorts; Kelsey McLean, Best Western Hotels & Resorts; Ashleigh Bachert, Durham Sports Commission; Matt Prewitt, Central Florida Sports; Kristyn Hawkins, Visit Spartanburg; Mark Hargis, Tulsa Sports Commission; Clay Partain, Visit Salt Lake City; Bill Kelly, Virginia Beach CVB; Suzanne Keller, Visit Mesa; Holly Kesterson, Harris County – Houston Sports Authority; Gray Workman Williams, Visit Greenville; Anissa Brown, Visit Ogden; Chad Culver, Visit Knoxville; Dean Polk, Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority; and Lisa Motley, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

One of the highlights of this year’s events for many attendees was the powerful keynote address by Inky Johnson, a former University of Tennessee cornerback whose football career ended in 2006 with an injury that permanently paralyzed his right arm.

The symposium also featured more than 30 educational sessions, appointments and functions at the Knoxville Convention Center with many afterhours entertainment options being offered around downtown Knoxville.

The 28th Annual Symposium will be held April 20-23, 2020 in Kansas City hosted by Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission. Birmingham, Ala., will host in 2021 with Fort Worth, Texas hosting in 2022.