Eleven tourist organizations from across the state have partnered to create Sports Nebraska – a coalition with the purpose of selling Nebraska to regional and national sporting event planners.
Derek Bombeck of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau says this partnership will help show what Nebraska cities have to offer as host sites for a wide variety of sporting events.
“The mission that we have as Sports Nebraska aims to attract and promote a strong culture of regional, national and international competitions within Nebraska cities,” Bombeck said Wednesday.
In March, Omaha hosted one of the biggest sporting events to ever come through the state – the Elite Eight championship of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.
The overtime thriller between Duke and Kansas earned a 10.1 overnight rating from CBS – the highest rating in 13 years.
Mark Rath of Visit Omaha says bringing more prestigious events like that to the state is one of Sports Nebraska’s top priorities.
“It was huge for us to brand Omaha and the state,” Rath said. “Having Kansas and Duke in the championship game in the Elite Eight in overtime, it’s fabulous.”
Outside of collegiate and national events, youth sports also have huge economic benefits. Youth sports is a $15 billion industry in the U.S.
Bombeck believes Sports Nebraska will attract events across the entire sports spectrum.
“It can be everything from the elite sports of the Olympic market all the way down to what a lot of us consider to be the bread and butter of youth sports,” Bombeck said. “When you get so many organizations and families coming into communities for soccer, softball and all of these other events, they bring Moms and Dads and Grandpas and Grandmas, and they help fill the hotels that we’re funded by.”
Executive Director of Nebraska Tourism John Ricks says the benefits of Sports Nebraska go far beyond the excitement of sports and competition.
“Getting involved and hosting sporting events on the national and regional level is significant,” Ricks said. “Over the long run, it can be actually bigger in terms of economic impact, getting new people to Nebraska, introducing them to Nebraska itself.
“It’s really exciting to see communities across the state get together and identify an opportunity out there that we can make some strides in and then actually put together a plan and implement it.”
Sports Nebraska represents not only Lincoln and Omaha, but smaller markets like Fremont, Norfolk, Grand Island, Kearney and others.
Lynelle Fritzen with the Kearney Visitors Bureau says the coalition will help spread the word about sporting events and venues in smaller communities.
“Lincoln and Omaha have done an amazing job of putting Nebraska on the map for being a premiere sports destination,” Fritzen said. “Just trying to be able to promote some of the smaller gyms that are just down the road from these guys.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.