Expert discusses sports tourism in Porter County
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 19, 2013 11:14PM
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:32AM
VALPARAISO — There were lots of questions.
About the impact sports tourism would have on Porter County; about what a private/public business model looks like; about what sports the area can attract; and about expanding the county’s vision beyond youth sports to include adults, too.
“My biggest job whenever I talk to groups is managing expectations,” Don Schumacher, executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions, told more than 20 tourism, sports, political and community leaders Monday.
Schumacher, whose non-profit firm is based in Cincinnati, is leading a two-day seminar at the Harre Union at Valparaiso University for the Indiana Dunes Tourism board and its recently formed sports cabinet, as they explore the possibility of sports tourism in the county.
The county also has hired Conventions, Sports and Leisure International to do a sports study, as well as a study of the Porter County Expo Center, for $134,000 to look at supply and demand for different sports, how to manage facilities, and a financial analysis including maintenance, operations and revenue.
“I’m not here to talk about building fields or building courts,” Schumacher said.
Rather, Schumacher said he was there to talk about what would be sustainable, and about sports travel as an industry, including what the factors are that cause people to travel for a day or a few days.
“Whether they are 8 years old or 80 years old, it does not matter. What does matter for Porter County is that the driving factor for Porter County is never going to be sports. It’s going to be the dunes,” he said, adding sports will never replace the beach here.
But Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said the majority of people going to the dunes are day-trippers because unlike other lakefront communities, such as those in southwest Michigan, Porter County does not have hotels, shops or other amenities along the shore.
The beach, Schumacher said, will bring in a higher total number of visitors, but sports will log more hotel rooms.
According to figures provided by Schumacher, sporting events results in more than $8 billion in direct spending, and more than 4,000 sporting events a year are looking for a host city.