S.P.O.R.T.S. 2015 Underway In Louisiana

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 1.31.52 PMBy SportsEvents Magazine Publisher Talty O’Conner. This year’s S.P.O.R.T.S – The Relationship Conference convenes October 5-8 in Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana

Long-term success in the sports events industry is built around meaningful relationships. For event owners and rights holders, real relationships mean we work with destination and venue people that we know, like and trust to follow through on the promises they made in order to book our events. On the destination side, it means having confidence that the event organizer will deliver (and over-deliver) on their own promises and that they will run events we are proud to host in our community. For both sides, great relationships give us the peace in knowing we can count on the other side to come through when we need them.

It’s All About The Relationship
BannerRelationships grow when people have time to get to know each other and when we share meaningful experiences together. Our annual conference is built around building meaningful relationships. Our program has worked so well through the years that attendees frequently referred to S.P.O.R.T.S. as “the relationship conference.” We latched onto the name.

Our formula for genuine relationship building starts with the necessity of having a manageable audience. We’ve closed registration and had a waiting list of attendees for the past four years. We maintain a ratio of about 2.5 destination/venue attendees to one event organizer. Next, we only schedule meaningful 15-minute appointments that must be pre-approved by both sides of the table. We also have intimate group sessions like town hall meetings where attendees share concerns, ideas and solutions with each other. Finally, S.P.O.R.T.S. attendees have fun together. They enjoy entertaining events that are designed to pair event owners and destination executives together with fun shared experiences that they talk and laugh about for years to come.

Sports Conference Registration

Delegate Welcome Packets Await Registration At SPORTS2015.

In October 2015, S.P.O.R.T.S. The Relationship Conference will exceed expectations. Last year we had more than 7,000 pre-arranged 15-minute appointments. We’ll exceed that this year. Attendees will also benefit from educational sessions on important topics like networking and growing sponsorship revenues, they’ll talk and share at town hall sessions, mingle with sports industry greats like Tim Brando (FOX Sports) and David Toms (PGA golfer) and live it up together at great parties, scavenger hunts, ghosts tours and other networking events that only a magical community like Shreveport-Bossier City, LA can pull off.

More information on S.P.O.R.T.S. 2015 is available on our website, www.sportseventsmagazine.com.

Regardless of whether you can join us or not, spending your time building great relationships in this industry will always lead to greater success and often in ways you may not have ever imagined.

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Spotlight On Shreveport/Bossier City

Shreveport and Bossier City market themselves as “Louisiana’s Other Side” to accentuate their location near the state’s western border with Texas. More specifically, Shreveport-Bossier is in the northwest corner of Louisiana where I-20 and I-49 converge. The Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV) is served by four airlines.

“Our team believes Shreveport-Bossier stands out because of our premier meeting venues, Southern hospitality, affordable hotel rates and the many amenities we provide before, during and after a meeting,” said David Bradley, vice president of convention and tourism sales for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. “Plus, attendees love the gaming, year-’round festivals, spicy Louisiana food and cultural attractions.”

Gaming is indeed big in this combo community that has six riverfront casinos: Boomtown Casino and Hotel, DiamondJacks Casino & Resort, Eldorado Resort Casino, Horseshoe Casino and Hotel, Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino and the newest, Margaritaville Resort Casino. Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Bossier City offers thoroughbred horse racing and slot machine action.

All of the primary gaming establishments in Shreveport-Bossier offer meeting and special event space, on-site eateries and banquet facilities, and, with the exception of Harrah’s, lodging.

Shreveport-Bossier’s attractions also include the Louisiana Science Center, American Rose Center, Shreveport Cradle of the

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.02.47 AMStars Music Tour, and the Backstage Music Tour at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, the Art Deco landmark venue where Elvis got his start and the “Louisiana Hayride” made radio and tele- vision history. There is excellent shopping and dining at Bossier City’s Louisiana Boardwalk.

Shreveport- Bossier City Meeting Space:

• Shreveport Convention Center: 22,000 square feet of meeting space; 95,000 square feet of exhibition space

• Bossier Civic Center: 35,000 square feet of meeting space

• CenturyLink Center: 14,000-seat multi-purpose facility with a 187-seat club and lounge

• Shreveport Municipal Auditorium: 3,000 seats; 6,300-square-foot arena

• Harrah’s Louisiana Downs: 25,000 square feet of meeting space

• Hilton Shreveport: 313 guest rooms; connected to the Shreveport Convention Center, can accommodate up to 162 people in three meeting rooms

• Wyndham Garden Shreveport: 267 guest rooms; 15,500 square feet of meeting space

• The Strand: the official state theater of Louisiana has 1,536 seats and a small meeting room that can accommodate up to 75

• Sainte Terre: event facility in rustic surroundings outside Shreveport with barn, terrace, chapel and bridal suite opened fall 2014; accommodates up to 250 guests

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Focus on Mississippi

Focus on Mississippi Sports Venues

Mississippi Gulf Coast ColiseumWhile football may be king in Mississippi— the state is home to one of the nation’s
top tailgating universities, the University of Mississippi—the Magnolia State is passionate about sports of all kinds. “Mississippi is a must-visit for sports fans,” said Lauren Cook, public relations manager for Visit Mississippi.

“We offer a variety of venues for all types of sports. Tupelo’s Aquatics Center has hosted more than six large swim meets. Snowden Grove Park in DeSoto County possesses many features only previously found at professional stadiums.”

Contact: http://www.visitmississippi.org

See the complete guide to Mississippi sports venues from our September issue of SportsEvents Magazine HERE.


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Life In The Talty Lane: My Ride On Bert

“Bert” is as stumpy as a bull frog, as strong as an ox and as agile as a ballerina. Bert is formally known as “Fat Albert,” and she’s the huge C-130 Hercules transport plane that performs the opening act for the Navy’s Blue Angels precision fight squadron.

Her primary mission is to transport equipment, spare parts and support personnel between the Blue Angels air shows.

Bert may be a service vehicle but when the best of the best Marine aviators take command of her four 4,300-horsepower engines, she climbs, rolls, dives and roars with amazing precision and agility. As a private pilot myself, I’m as awed by the antics of Fat Albert as I am impressed by the precision of the Blue Angels’ F/A-18s.

So when the invitation came to ride in Fat Albert for a full-scale practice run of the Pensacola Beach Air Show in July, I jumped at the opportunity. A few media members get the invite for each show along with some Naval sailors who get selected for service excellence.

The calendar moved slowly leading up to fight day but my heart was pounding with anticipation as I finally passed through NAS Pensacola security. Once checked off for physical fitness, the fight briefings were thorough and precise. Our captain is Major Dusty Cook, a mix of military professionalism along with a sharp sense of humor and a devious grin. He runs through the intense maneuvers of the fight plan in exacting detail without referencing a single note. Then he gives our orders…

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 8.35.29 AM“This is not a commercial airline fight. Your gear must be secure at all times or it will be gone. If your cell phone comes out of your pocket or hand, it will crash into tiny little pieces and you will stick around after the fight to pick them up. If your seat belt is loose, you’ll be jostled about and you won’t like it. If you come out of your seat belt, your body parts will make a mess all over the cargo area. Our fight crew takes meticulous care of Bert. They won’t be happy if that happens. Cinch your seat belt tight and secure your gear.

“If you lose your lunch make sure it goes in the barf bag you’ve been provided and not on the people around you. That starts a chain reaction we don’t want to see and makes a mess you’ll have to stay late to clean up too. On my last fight only one person got sick. That was disappointing and I’ll do a better job with you guys on this fight.” That’s when I noticed the devious grin.

The fight itself was more than imagined and difficult for a simple writer like me to put into words. Start with the roar of four powerful Rolls Royce engines as the big bird quickly lifts five feet off the runway and accelerates to about 200 knots before the pilot pulls it into a 45-degree climb angle (a commercial fight ascends at about 10 degrees). At this point we’re pulling about 2gs, which translates to my body feeling twice its already overweight heaviness. This is exactly how I would suggest leaving a hostile combat situation, but…

After the steep climb, Captain smirk pushes the plane over into a dive. Without warning we go from heavyweight to weightless. The fight crew in the cargo area float about the plane, holding onto whatever is available. The remainder of the demonstration fight continues like a high intensity roller coaster ride, except it lasts about 10 times longer.

Fat Albert makes turns with 60-degree bank angles, high-speed low-altitude passes over the crowd, steep climbs and more weightless dives. And the landing at Pensacola Naval Air Station is something of a high speed combat assault fight accelerating down a crossing runway followed by a high-angle banking turn and short field landing, precisely ending the fight on the spot we started.

And to answer the most asked question, my barf bag was empty but quite a few others were not. Nice job, Major Cook!

Local media estimated the air show delighted more than a quarter of a million spectators on the ground, packing the beach and on thousands of boats anchored in the beautiful lagoons, bays and gulf waters surrounding Pensacola Beach. The Blue Angels Flight Demonstration inspires audiences by showcasing the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

I learned on this fight that Navy sailors and marines look up to Fat Albert and the Blue Angels with spirit lifting pride be- cause what they see is a bit of themselves on display… the amazing professionalism of each and every member of the United States Navy and Marine Corps on display for all to appreciate.

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Life In The Talty Lane

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A few weeks ago all of our employees embarked on an adventuresome afternoon corporate retreat. We went bowling. We started off with a meeting to talk a little about our company culture. We have certain agreements we all commit to that revolve around character, integrity, attitude, customer care, excellence in all we do, having fun and caring for each other.

Our corporate mission is simply to earn customer loyalty. My philosophy is that if we earn your loyalty in all we do while we care for each other at work and have a little fun along the way, all that truly matters will fall into place.

The points-based, team-swapping bowling ended in a sudden death three-way bowl-off between two of the best bowlers and one of the, shall I say, least productive bowlers. But that is exactly who rose to the occasion and took home the much coveted title. If you happen to connect with our ad traffic coordinator, Stephanie Eckman, you’ll know it was character, not luck, that rolled her to bowling queen stardom.

Opinions, quotes and other pointless commentary from the publisher, Talty O’Connor

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Spice It Up A Little…Add A Health & Wellness Component To Your Event

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By Bruce Knittle

As a sports planner, if you are looking to add something unique to your event, why not add a health-oriented component. There are several out there that are becoming increasingly popular with individuals of all ages interested in improving both mind and body.

One such program to consider, popular in the United States and overseas, is the Alexander Technique (http://www.alexandertechnique.com/). Developed in the late 1800s, it is a mind-body method for improving ease of movement, balance, support and coordination.

The program can be used for numerous sports and non-sport disciplines. Tennis, swimming, running or golf can be easier to play, and more fun after learning the Alexander Technique.

Certified Alexander Technique instructors are employed to teach spectators and participants how to use the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, bringing more energy as a result.

There are more than 4,000 instructors in the United States and abroad. One certified instructor successful in spreading the word about this program is Gary Adelman from Glen Head, N.Y. Adelman is also an accomplished tennis teaching professional and a former world-class player. He has been a featured speaker demonstrating the Alexander Technique at national tennis conventions for the USPTA and USTA, and has given presentations to college tennis coaches and player in both large and small settings. “The participants at these venues have always been receptive to hearing about the program and its benefits,” he said.

For a primer on the value of the technique, sports planners can access Adelman’s website at www.tenniswithouttension.com.

Adding a wellness-oriented program to an existing event and including it in targeted marketing efforts can pay dividends. It attracts attention and individuals to the event, increasing the economic impact on the event community. For sports planners, it will help their event stand out from others, and, at the same time, provide a service to individuals looking to improve their health and well being.

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On The Trail Of Adventure: Biltmore Estate Opens Up To Sports Events

Kelly in Italian Garden at Biltmore

By Kelly Watkins

Biltmore, set amid the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, is a dream location for outdoor sporting events. The estate encompasses 8,000 acres. It’s only in recent years that the Vanderbilt family has allowed sports events to take place on the Estate. Now, the number of events is growing, as the family welcomes more sports events.

For example, the Asheville Marathon has been run on the property for the past few years, providing incredible scenery for both runners and spectators. In 2016, a cyclo-cross race is scheduled to enjoy a course that’s 100% on the estate.

While Biltmore Estate might only be suitable for a limited number of events, the area around Asheville has hosted many other types of sports competitions. According to Ben VanCamp, executive director of the Asheville Sports Commission (www.AshevilleSports.org), one reason for successful sports events is that Asheville is a premier destination in the Southeast. Since participants can have a well-rounded experience, in addition to their sports event, that increases attendance. There’s food, music, crafts, and breweries. Ben says, “A lot of attendees come a day early or stay a day later. By holding the event here, it gives people the excuse they’ve been looking for to visit Asheville.”

Because Asheville has four distinct seasons, the area attracts all types of sports from skiing to soccer. In addition, Ben notes that there is recent growth in gymnastics (due to a new and updated facility) and lacrosse.

Visiting Biltmore

Regardless of where your event is held in Asheville, a visit to Biltmore is a must-see for participants and their families. Personally, having marveled at countless castles on numerous visits to Europe, I had always wondered how Biltmore compared. Many people refer to Biltmore (www.Biltmore.com) as America’s castle, since it is the country’s largest privately owned residence, with 250 rooms that occupy four acres of floor space.

I finally had the opportunity to make my comparison during a recent trip to Asheville. Since Biltmore was completed in December 1895, it was quickly apparent that it was more modern. European castles were built hundreds of years ago, so they can’t boast electricity or indoor bathrooms. In addition to 35 bedrooms, Biltmore contains 43 bathrooms, which is an astonishing number even for today’s standards. (I will admit my house contains slightly fewer bathrooms.)

I found it curious that most bathrooms contained a tub and toilet, but no sink. Hot water was still carried to the bedrooms by servants and placed in a bowl on the wash stand – a reminder of the limitations of plumbing at the time.

While Biltmore easily wins in modern amenities, most European castles are fancier than Biltmore – with more gold, more crystal, and more ornate decorations. However, those castles were built for Kings and Queens. Biltmore was built by George Vanderbilt (grandson of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt) as an escape from his busy life in New York. George worked extensively with Frederick Law Olmsted, famed landscape architect. His goal was to preserve the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as create a sustainable working farm. It took six years for 1,000 workers working six days a week to complete the house.

In European castles, the most prominent feature is typically the staircase – which is massive, curved, or even doubled. It is usually adorned with an enormous crystal chandelier twinkling in candlelight. At Biltmore, the most prominent feature as I entered the castle was the Winter Garden, a circular room immediately on the right. With its three-story, glass ceiling and abundant greenery, this elaborate indoor conservatory was impressive.

My husband, the engineer, immediately noticed the small hand cranks along the columns at the edge of the room. He asked our son, Ethan, what he thought their purpose was. After a couple of wrong guesses, Ethan used his eyes to visually follow the path of the metal bars that were attached to the cranks. They led all the way to the small windows near the ceiling. Aha! The cranks were used to open and shut the windows. Very ingenious … especially for a house built 120 years ago.

Unlike continental European castles (but similar to English ones), Biltmore is still family owned – by the fourth and fifth generations. George Vanderbilt passed away in 1914. Sadly, he wasn’t able to enjoy his beautiful home for long. However, his wife, Edith, continued to run the Estate and carry on George’s desire to preserve the surrounding land. This legacy included selling (at a significant discount) 87,000 acres to the US Forest Service to create the Pisgah National Forest – uninterrupted views of which I enjoyed from the house’s windows and terraces.

George and Edith’s daughter, Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil, eventually opened the home to the public in 1930. Through the years, the property has been expanded to include Deerpark, which hosts events, and the Antler Hill Village and Winery. Tours of the winery (and free samples!) are included in the admission price to the Estate. Today, it takes 2,000 employees to operate and maintain this American castle called Biltmore.

If you go

Biltmore house is open from 9:00am-5:00pm daily. The hours for the winery and gardens vary. After entering the estate through the Lodge Gate, your first stop is the Reception & Ticketing Sales Center, which is open from 8:30 am-6:30 pm daily. This is where you first realize just how enormous the estate is. The house is an additional 3 miles from the Reception building.

Where to stay

The Biltmore Farms Hotels company (www.BiltmoreFarmsHotels.com), which consists of five hotels, is owned by George Vanderbilt’s great grandson. We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville Biltmore (www.doubletreeasheville.com). After a long drive, it was nice to greeted by one of DoubleTree’s famous warm cookies.

This DoubleTree is accustomed to accommodating sports groups. As the host hotel for the Asheville Marathon, the DoubleTree is the staging point for all transportation to the event. The property is located only two blocks from Biltmore. DoubleTree also hosts an Expo before the Marathon, with approximately 80 exhibitors, according to Lauren McDevitt, Marketing Manager for Biltmore Farms Hotels.

To help the participants, DoubleTree offers creative pre-event packages. For example, the hotel provides a pasta dinner the night before the race. Corky Cordell, Sales Manager for Biltmore Farms Hotels, says this is a popular event because it allows the participants to socialize with each other.

DoubleTree is also one of the hosts for the NCAA Southern Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Every year, the DoubleTree creates a different treat designed specifically for the team they’re hosting. Lauren says past treats have included cupcakes iced with team colors, custom colored M&Ms™ with team name, and gourmet popcorn. The front desk staff join in the celebration by wearing referee jerseys.

DoubleTree offers a combined 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. While the Garden Terrace is a beautiful outdoor space for events, I enjoyed a quiet stroll through the oasis on my own.

A bonus feature of this DoubleTree is the museum-like corridors and public spaces. They are filled with panoramic pictures and historic descriptions of the construction of Biltmore and the growth of the surrounding community. There’s even a display of an actual horse-drawn dairy wagon (without the horse) and a statue of a dairy cow (without the mooing). These provided fun backdrops for some pictures of my children.

Kelly Watkins helps companies around the globe to develop leaders and improve service. Do you have Executive Professionalism™? Find out at www.ExecutiveProfessionalism.com. Kelly writes about her travel adventures for fun. kelly@keepcustomers.com

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