Cedar Rapids lands sports tourism conference

2017 S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference scheduled for Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The 2017 S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference will be held in Cedar Rapids next September, local tourism officials said Wednesday.

The annual conference, which was held last week in Overland Park, Kan., draws planners for major and more obscure sporting events and tourism officials hoping to land one of those events. The 2017 meeting will be Sept. 18-21, 2017 at the DoubleTree Hotel and Convention Center in Cedar Rapids.

“This is a big deal because when you try to get events in your city, you have to get the planner here to see what you have,” said Ralph Russell, a Cedar Rapids City Council member. “This brings them here.”

Local leaders are calling it a big win for Cedar Rapids, not just for landing the conference, but because of the potential it could lead to other events for the area in the future.

“The numbers for the sports tourism industry are unbelievable,” said City Council member Kris Gulick. “Anything we have facilities for here are opportunities for us to do something.”

The event is expected to draw 65 to 85 event planners from organizations such as the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes, National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and Youth Basketball of America. They will represent the gamut of the sports industry, from major sports, such as football, baseball, hockey and wrestling to more obscure sports such as disc golf, archery, corn hole and Quidditch.

The planners represent $128 million in annual sports event business, officials said.

Another 200 attendees from various communities around the country are also expected to attend.

“They will come from all over the country,” said J. Talty O’ Connor, president of the SportsEvents Media Group, which produces the conference.

Past hosts have included Oklahoma City, Okla., Daytona Beach, Fla., and Orlando, Fla.

Aaron McCreight, president and chief executive of Go Cedar Rapids, a local tourism organization, said the event will showcase the various sports facilities in town, including the U.S. Cellular Center Arena, the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena and Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“The advantage we have is it’s in our city,” McCreight said. “The more people and places they feel (while here), the better it is for them to come back as a destination.”

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