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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SportsEvents On The Trail Of Adventures: Insane Inflatable 5K

obstacles insane 5k course

By Marcia Bradford

Aug. 1, 2015

I was on my way to East Lansing, Mich., to meet an old college friend and reminisce about our years at Michigan State University, when I heard on the radio that the Insane Inflatable 5K race was coming to Lansing, the state’s capital, the following day.

Sure enough, as I drove by the Hope Sports Complex, a facility for competitive soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, softball and baseball, I saw all sorts of huge inflatables going up. Heavy traffic and roped off entryways prevented me from getting my own photos, but it appeared the crowds were already gathering.

According to event organizers, these events are held all over the United States,  but each course’s terrain is unique, making it a constant challenge for those who participate in multiple Insane Inflatable 5K races. The course in Lansing included the Tangled Up maze that contestants had to navigate; Pure Misery, a 100-foot long test of endurance and agility; and S.O.S., an inflatable that is  2 ½ stories high, with three different slides, making it very easy for contestants to get lost.

Designed to be as fun as possible, the event is open to all ages, but participants must be at least 42 inches tall and team captains must be at least 18 years old. Start times are staggered and participants can run or walk the course, depending on their own competitive drive.

Each event also features the Insane Inflatable 5K Midway, with inflatable games and experiential activities, live music, food and beverages.

For more information visit www.insaneinflatable5K.com.

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Swim, Bike, Run, Wed: Couple to tie the knot at Alabama Coastal Triathlon

Paige Bentley and Billy Rollins

Billy Rollins and Paige Bentley of Daphne, Alabama get engaged at the finish line of the 2014 Brett/Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon. The couple will get married at the 2015 triathlon finish line at The Hangout on Saturday, Sept. 12. (Photo Credit: Paige Bentley)

By Ally Dorrough • Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – The Brett/Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon is set for Saturday, Sept. 12 with a 1.5K swim in the Gulf of Mexico, 40K bike ride, 10K scenic run and a special twist at the finish line – a wedding. Daphne, Alabama resident Billy Rollins proposed to longtime love Paige Bentley at the triathlon finish line in 2014, and the fit duo will tie the knot at the end of this year’s race.

“I was totally surprised that Billy proposed at the finish line,” Bentley recalls. “He had been planning it for months, and all of our friends and family knew. It was truly an amazing day!”

Bentley says their pastor will be waiting at finish line as they swim, bike and run their way to the altar.

Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, explains how sporting events along the Alabama Gulf Coast produce memories of a lifetime.

“Paige and Billy’s story is one of countless life-changing experiences people take home from team- and participation-based athletic events in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach,” Gendler says. “The Alabama Coastal Triathlon and beginner sprint ‘Tri-It-On’ event give beach guests an opportunity to pair relaxation and fitness into one unforgettable vacation.”

The “Tri-It-On” event will feature a 300-yard swim, 10-mile bike ride and 2-mile run. Pre- and post-race activities for both events will take place at The Hangout in Gulf Shores.

Register by Aug. 23 for $120 for individuals, $170 for two-person relays and $200 for three-person relays. “Tri-It-On” registrations received by Aug. 23 cost $60 for individuals, $90 for two-person relays and $105 for three-person relays. Prices go up beginning Aug. 24.

For more information on registering for either race, visit Team-Magic.com/Events/50/Contents/Register, and Team-Magic.com/Events/50 for general event details. For information on upcoming athletic events along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visitGulfShoresOrangeBeachSports.com, or call 1-800-745-SAND.

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Sports Organizations As Social Activists: They’ve Long Been Players

By T. Wayne Waters

Just this year we’ve seen very public responses by major sports organizations to “hot button” social/cultural/political issues. The potential interplay between gay rights and religious freedom that arose in the legislative processes of Indiana and Arkansas around the time of the NCAA Final Four tournament prompted responses from the NCAA, NBA, NASCAR, and other sports organizations (see SportsEvents, May 2015, pages 14-15).

The Confederate flag issue drew considerable media coverage, including a personal response from SportsEvents Publisher Talty O’Connor in the June 2015 issue. NCAA, ACC and NASCAR were some of the sport organizations that issued statements supporting the removal of the flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds.

NASCAR chairman Brian France issued a statement calling for the elimination of the Confederate flag from all NASCAR events, an expansion of its anti-Confederate flag policies that had been in place for more than a decade.

The president of the Daytona National Speedway initiated a flag swap campaign for the July Coke Zero 400 race scheduled on Independence Day weekend. Fans bringing a Confederate flag could swap it for a U.S. flag, but they could keep and fly the Stars and Bars if they chose to. Some, reportedly, did so.

NCAA President Mark Emmert’s statement made clear the organization’s long-time stance regarding the use of the Confederate flag. “The NCAA strongly supports today’s removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds,” Emmert said. “This step sends an important message of respect for and dignity of every person. As a national association, the NCAA opposes this symbol of racism, and since 2001 we have demonstrated our opposition by not playing pre-selected championships in states where the flag was flown prominently. The removal of the Confederate flag now means that South Carolina can bid to host future NCAA championships.”

ACC Commissioner John Swofford’s statement indicated a similar perspective. “I personally applaud the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol,” Swofford said. “With this change, bids to host future ACC Championships will be accepted from interested South Carolina cities, with no additional stipulations placed on them because of the Confederate flag.”

Since 2000, the ACC has followed the lead of the NAACP boycott regarding the flag issue, and not held pre-determined championships in South Carolina. In 2005, this stance was loosened a bit to allow case-by-case considerations in South Carolina. In 2009, Myrtle Beach won the bid for a three-year run as host to the ACC baseball tournament to start in 2011 but it was overturned based on the Confederate flag issue.

Activism Nothing New In Sports World

Much of this type of activism of late has been generated by collegiate sports organizations, but professional sports organizations have also played a role recently and historically in such matters. NASCAR is a good organization to illustrate that these instances were not, of course, the first time such statements had been made or actions taken regarding social issues. Three years ago, the stock car racing organization refused to allow PGA star Bubba Watson to drive his Confederate flag-emblazoned Dukes of Hazzard General Lee car around the track before an event at Phoenix International Raceway. The organization has prevented the Confederate flag from appearing on any of its racecars or official materials for more than a decade.

Other cases in recent decades include negative responses to Arizona’s Immigration Law SB 1070 in 2010 by some NBA and MLB athletes and teams. The MLB Players’ Association Executive Director Michael Weiner issued a statement opposing the law at the time and threatened further action. Despite considerable pressure, however, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig refused to relocate the All Star Game scheduled the following year at Chase Field in Phoenix. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three of the SB 1070s provisions and has refused to revisit other immigration-related appeals that had been ruled on by lower federal courts, essentially dismantling much of Arizona’s immigration policies.

In 1990, the NFL responded to the state of Arizona’s refusal to honor Martin Luther King Day by voting to change the scheduled 1993 Super Bowl locale from Tempe, Ariz., to Pasadena, Calif. The Grand Canyon State was awarded the 1996 Super Bowl after Arizona voters decided to reverse the state’s position.

The topic of race in sports is not new. In the 19th and 20th centuries, college athletics and the U.S. Olympic Committee made powerful social statements by including African American athletes. In 1950s, professional sports programs began making their own statements by signing on Jackie Robinson, Earl Lloyd, Willie O’Ree, Marion Motley and others.

All along the way, reactions to controversial social issues by sports organizations have created controversy to one degree or another.


SportEvents solicited comments for this article from amateur sports organizations, sports commissions and CVBs and received two responses.

Hill Carrow, CEO, Triangle Sports Commission, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Olympic and other amateur sports in the central North Carolina region anchored by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, said social activism of the sort addressed here is “totally fair” and something that “helps communities keep their eye on the ball of right and wrong in contemporary society.” He views the role of athletes and sports organizations as naturally proactive. “Athletes have always been held to a higher standard because they are often perceived as larger than life role models,” Carrow said. “Given this positioning for athletes, it is very reasonable to put sports as a whole in a leadership position, using the power of sports for good. That is exactly how the Modern Day Olympics got started in the 1890s by a significant group of leaders of the World Peace Movement.”

Carrow is also keenly aware of the potential consequences to locales if they have adopted a position that seems out of step with contemporary social and political perspectives. “It’s been clearly demonstrated that a community, region or state stance on a significant social issue can hurt in the quest for sports events and activities,” he said. “There is no clearer example than the flag controversy in South Carolina and the unequivocal stance of the NCAA, ACC and others that no major championships would be held in the state as long as the flag remained in place at the Capitol.”

Bob Crowley, executive director of USA Water Ski, sees such social activism as problematic. “NGBs are membership organizations. We have a broad spectrum of membership, and they believe different things about different issues,” said Crowley. “I’d be surprised if USA Water Ski got out in front of any social issues because membership is likely on both sides of such issues. We’re here to serve our membership and to serve them with the sport. That’s our job. If it’s an issue that significantly impacts the sport, we will get involved with it. For example, there’s a government effort right now to expand the use of ethanol 15 in all gas boats, an increase in the level of ethanol in our common gasoline. That level of ethanol wreaks havoc on the engines of boats that power water skiing. We’ll write some letters and reach out to make an impact on any potential legislation of that kind because that’s specific to the needs of our constituency.”

However, Crowley added, “We are an equal opportunity participation organization. We do not discriminate on any basis.”

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SportsEvents On The Trail Of Adventure – Canoe Marathon


Canoeing All Night Long

July 28, 2015

By Marcia Bradford

I was visiting relatives at their vacation home near Grayling, Mich., when I saw a sign for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, which took place July 25 – 26.  I learned that this annual event, dating back to 1947, is a non-stop canoe race that starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling. It ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich.

Contestants must navigate the narrow, winding upper stretch in total darkness, as well as stump-filled ponds and the blazing July sun in the lower stretch. Organizers stress that this race is not a recreational canoe float, but a professional, ultra-competitive race with the very best professional paddlers from North and Central America.

“Contestants must be in peak condition in order to complete the race in the allotted time, and to endure the grueling and strenuous physical and mental strains the marathon demands of the paddlers,” the guidelines state.

More than $50,000 in cash and prizes is awarded to more than 40 of the fastest canoe teams.

Statistics gathered over the years show the fastest time achieved thus far was 13 hours, 58 minutes and .08 seconds, which was accomplished by a team in the professional division in 1994.

Used by recreational paddlers throughout the year, the AuSable is one of Michigan’s scenic rivers. The stretch from Grayling to Lake Huron offers breathtaking scenery as well as excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Bald eagles, wild turkey and deer are seen throughout the year. Panoramic vistas from high bluff overlooks, long wooden boardwalks over spring-fed streams, and miles of quiet, undeveloped shoreline all can be found along here.

For more information, visit www.ausablecanoemarathon.org

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4 Ways To Grow A Great Relationship With Your Sports Venue

By Bruce Knittle

Among a sports event planner’s numerous responsibilities, having a positive relationship with the host facility has to rank very high. How this association develops often determines whether an event will be successful. There are certain approaches an event planner can employ to further this process along. The following are suggestions to help with the forming of this hoped for optimal partnership:

  1. Be Visible

Before, during and after an event, the sports planner should keep all communication lines open with the facility. Whatever the size of an event, it is always a good idea to correspond directly with the facility operators, and form a mutually advantageous bond.

When I used to work at a college, I observed closely the many events held at the school. Seemingly, without exception, the successful ones always had organizers who were actively involved with our personnel. These same individuals kept us informed of their progress, and we gladly were able to help them out. This was in stark contrast to others, who after signing a contract, we barely saw them.

  1. Exceed Expectations

If the goal of an event planner is to build a long-termed relationship with the facility, surpassing even what is expected, will help reach this objective. Not only should sports event planners abide by the contractual guidelines, but their event should be so well run that they will be welcomed back in following years.

Operators of sports complexes always have a lot on their plate, and if the planner can run a well-organized, efficient event, it will be appreciated.

  1. Hope For The Best, Plan For The Worst

Well before an event takes place, the event coordinator needs to have in place contingency plans for inclement weather, transportation issues, safety concerns, and other potentially unforeseen occurrences. This is all part of being completely prepared and should be communicated to the facility.

If the facility operators recognize that you have backup plans for emergency occurrences, this will give them confidence in working with you. As event planners are well aware, things do go wrong, so the need for contingency arrangements is expected.

  1. Promote The Facility & Community

When marketing an event, concurrently extol the virtues of the host complex and community. This will generate good will and benefit all parties. Plus, developing cross marketing relationships with the facility is always a good idea to solidify the relationship.

Hiring individuals from the local community will also help in forming closer ties. These local personnel can help market your event, and further your connection to the location.

Cultivating positive relationships with facility operators improves chances for a long-termed association, benefitting the event planner, venue and local community.

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