Sports commission keeps eye on the ball

Published 8:38 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015

By Bryan K. Stephens

The largest multi-sport youth event in the United States is coming back to Hampton Roads with an expected economic boom. The Hampton Roads Sports Commission, an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, will host the 2015 Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games July 29-Aug. 8.

This event is the largest multi-sport youth event in the country, and the entire region will benefit from it. More than 15,000 athletes — from 7 to 17 and hailing from all 50 states — will be our guests, along with more than 20,000 coaches and family members.

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The young athletes will compete in 20 different sporting events spread throughout Hampton Roads. According to a study by Old Dominion University, these 11 days are expected to generate an economic impact of more than $50 million for the region.

Hosting an event of this magnitude requires extensive collaboration and support from a variety of organizations. It takes the support of the convention and visitors bureaus and parks and recreation departments to help provide hotels, competition venues, equipment, supplies and marketing support to make this event a success — not to mention the 17,500 “goodie bags” to be assembled by Eggleston.

Recognizing this tremendous opportunity, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce conducted a nationwide search and brought in a new HRSC executive director in January. Lauren Bland has spent more than 10 years in the sports industry, with experience spanning collegiate athletic departments, convention and visitors bureaus, hotels and sportsplex management.

The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is helping the HRSC through a rebuilding and rebranding phase. It will still be the sports commission that brings large, world class sporting events to the region, but the organization is also going to focus on partnering with our local CVBs and parks and recreation departments to bring events to individual cities.

Sports event planners have become savvy over the last decade. It is no longer enough for a region to simply have great facilities. Planners are also looking for accommodating hotels, a variety of restaurants, easy traffic patterns and support from their local CVBs and sports commissions. They are looking for partnerships to help grow their events.

In addition to working with sports planners and CVBs to bring events to the Hampton Roads Region, the HRSC will be launching several new signature events during the next 18 months. These will reflect the climate and conditions of our region, and will target youth sports, adult sports, military and service members, and events geared towards the corporate market.

According to Sports Travel Magazine, youth sports is a $7 billon dollar industry with a proven track record in surviving all economic conditions. Sports Travel Magazine found that fully 27 percent of all trips/vacations taken in 2013 were for the singular purpose of attending a sporting event.

Parents might cancel a vacation, but they won’t cancel travel to sports tournaments or events for their children. Instead of taking a week-long family vacation, parents will often attend a few tournaments, possibly extending their trip by a day or two.

We are lucky to live in and to represent such a vibrant destination. From our beaches to our rich military history, Hampton Roads is a place where teams and families want to compete and visit. It is the goal of the HRSC to bring visitors into our region, to showcase the beauty and fun that we have to offer, and to become “top of mind” when a family is planning their next vacation.

For more information about the HRSC and the upcoming AAU Junior Olympic Games, visit

Bryan K. Stephens is the president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Call him at 664-2535.