If Josh Todd is interviewed after someday winning a sports tourism award, he might say, “I came from Disney World!”
Todd has been the director of sports for Visit Mesa since 2010, and he says that of all his experience leading to his current role, his time as a post-grad intern at Disney’s Wide World of Sports (now ESPN Wide World of Sports) meant the most. There for 2006-07, Todd focused on sales and event management mainly in soccer, lacrosse, football and field sports.
“My experience at Disney was amazing and still valuable to this day,” says Todd. “Learning the ‘Disney Way’ on running events, attention to detail and customer service is something I still take pride in.”
Todd graduated from Fort Hays State in Hays, Kansas, where he played football. He earned a masters in sports management at Wichita State while serving as event coordinator for Shocker athletics. It’s where Todd discovered his love for running events, he says. He also interned at the Orange Bowl and NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
After Disney, Todd returned to Kansas to coach high school football and work in parks and recreation, eventually running the sports and recreation department for a suburb of Kansas City.
His move to Mesa in 2010 was a sort of homecoming for the Tempe, Arizona native. Todd runs what he calls “the national voice in sports tourism for regional DMO Mesa City Limitless,” the area including the cities of Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek, and Apache Junction. He says since his hire both sports bookings and room nights have significantly increased, which might be part of the reason why he has a seat on Mesa’s parks board.
1: What is good about the industry right now?
The partnerships and relationships between cities and planners. I love the friendly competition and collaboration between DMOs. Also, job security. More than ever, people are still traveling for sports events. I love the partnerships and diversity of events; there is something for every city to host and that enables you to find your niche as a community and be known for something.
2: What needs to be fixed within the industry right now?
Buy-in from important stakeholders. We as sports tourism professionals know how important tourism is to our local and state economies, but sometimes it is difficult to get others to buy into our vision and needs, such as the government officials and private corporations needed for sponsorships.
3: Hardest lesson you’ve learned?
Personally: Be grateful for every moment—one phone call or one day can change everything. Professionally: Failure is necessary and there are a lot of people out there smarter than me.
4: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten?
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. And, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
5: What advice would you give to people starting in your position?
Like new Cubs manager Joe Maddon says, “Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” In other words, realize how important what we do is—generating incremental tax dollars, economic impact and improving citizens’ quality of life—but also realize despite our pressures, in the end we work so people can have fun and enjoy themselves at events and in your city. Keep things in perspective, keep learning every day and be better today than you were yesterday.