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By Peter Hustonimg_8253

Have you noticed how many 5 and 10k running races there are these days? They’re everywhere! They’ve proliferated and become a viable business for small entrepreneurial groups like the one Put-in-Bay School graduate Oliver Thwaite started, AllSportFun.com, that does race management and timing.

But running races and other sports competitions is just the tip of the iceberg. Large media driven groups like Battle Frog and NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge are creating and promoting successful sports “destination” competitions. Using television to promote the event, these very popular sports events create local commerce and tourism through fan and competitor interest.

Regionally here in Northwest Ohio we have soccer, rugby, bicycling, volleyball and cornhole (yes cornhole) that have become moneymaking juggernauts. This benefits not just the organizers but the communities as well. Local “walks and runs” (which we have nearly a dozen of now in Put-in-Bay) were for many years mostly organized and promoted by non-profits like Susan G. Komen, Cleveland Clinic, and Stein Hospice for fundraisers. They are now losing market share and being out numbered by “for profit” organizers that bring other innovative events to local destinations like Put-in-Bay.

Groups of like-minded Millennial and Generation X sports enthusiasts have grown up running virtual companies that feature websites and regular activities that promote the destination. These small organizations stage multiple events yearly. Indoors and out. Their popular events, like “Battle at the Bay” volleyball not only brings players to Put-in-Bay (750 or so) but friends and fans that hang out, eat, shop and enjoy our local venues.

Large national sports marketing companies like Sports Force (http://www.the-sports-force.com/) have figured out that they can create the venues and become the host location for events. Locally they have teamed up with Cedar Faire (Cedar Points parent company) to buy the former Griffing Airport in Sandusky and turn it into a mega sports complex. Sports Force is building a large very “green’ venue that will feature baseball diamonds, football fields, food and merchandising.

This outdoor facility can potentially generate millions of visitors that will come to Sandusky to watch or play in a tournament, stay in a local hotel and go to Cedar Point, even Put-in-Bay. Erie County’s interest in this development is so keen that their commissioners went out of the way to help reduce the red tape to get this project sited and approved.

Here in Put-in-Bay we have great interest from many organizations and businesses both local and regional that want to stage their event here. When you look at the choices for local development, keeping open “green” spaces available for events and sports related tournaments looks pretty appealing.

We have precious few green spaces here on South Bass, but there are still many weekends open to entice creative event planners to visit. Thankfully Island Resorts, Put-in-Bay Township Port Authority, Put-in-Bay Township Park District and the National Park Service see the long-term potential of using their green assets encourage and promote current and future events. It really is a “win-win” for everyone.

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