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Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

Sports corporation lures events to city

January 28, 2005

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When it comes to bringing visitors to town, the Lawrence Sports Corp. is playing to win.

"We're aggressive," said Bob Sanner, executive director of the nonprofit corporation. "Once it's known that people are wanting to work together for a common cause, it's amazing what the Lawrence community can do."

The corporation, a division of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, works to draw sporting events -- and the competitors, spectators and money that come with them -- to town during the slow summer months.

And the organization already is scoring points in high-stakes competitions for events. This month, USA Cycling announced that it was bringing its Collegiate Road National Championships to Lawrence.

The event, held May 13-15, will be expected to attract 400 college riders and another 200 juniors, classified as riders under 18 years old. Organizers expect crowds of as many as 3,000 people, but such estimates could prove conservative.

"We are eager to go to Lawrence for this event due to its central location, which makes competing at Nationals accessible to colleges around the nation," said USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia, in announcing his organization's selection of Lawrence.

The event is under contract for Lawrence through 2007, with options for two more years. Working to land the event were the sports corporation, KU Cycling Club, and KLM Marketing Solutions, which will manage the event.

"We were very aggressive," Sanner said.

Other sporting events lined up this year in Lawrence:

#8226; American Fastpitch Assn. National Fastpitch Championships, July 18-24. Last year's event drew 3,800 visitors. Taken together, the 14-, 16- and 18-year-old girls and their friends, families and other supporters spent $1 million on hotels, gasoline, food, souvenirs and other goods and services in Lawrence, said Judy Billings, senior vice president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

#8226; Midwest Mayhem Triathlon, July 24. The event takes over where the former Lawrence Memorial Hospital Triathlon left off when it ceased in 2001 -- with plans for attracting as many as 600 participants and an additional 900 or so friends, family and supporters to Lone Star Lake.

#8226; Lawrence Futures Golf Classic, May 6-8, Eagle Bend Golf Course. Although the sports corporation was not involved in recruiting the event, it remains indicative of the community's efforts to woo lucrative events to town. The Futures Tour is the developmental tour for the LPGA, and the Lawrence event is set to boast $70,000 in prize money for a field of 144 players from as many as 27 countries. Add in 500 or so out-of-town visitors, and Lawrence businesses can expect to pull in $250,000 to $400,000 of "new dollars" to be spent in town for the event, said Tracy Kerdyk, the Futures Tour's vice president for business development and communications.

The sports corporation continues efforts to recruit more events. Among the biggest targets is a "national triathlon," Sanner said.

Such an event would be expected to draw 1,500 competitors and as many as 3,000 spectators, a potential crowd that has Sanner wondering whether it might be too much of a good thing.

"When you start dealing with that size of group, you start to worry about hotels and the number of swimmers," Sanner said. "Lone Star might be a little tight."

But Sanner isn't worried. He's confident Lawrence can play in the big leagues, and welcome plenty of fans.

"When you're in competition for the Final Four or the Super Bowl, each community identifies where they feel their niche market is, and then you go after those events," he said. "We're always trying to identify events that would work well in Lawrence."

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