Brian J. Graham, newly minted CEO of Augusta Sports Council, believes the Augusta, Georgia, area is ready to grow its sports activities. And he’s ready to lead the charge.
Augusta is home to the renowned Masters Tournament, held annually in early April, and it’s also Graham’s hometown. Although Graham won’t have a direct role with the Masters, he will support the event through the Augusta CVB. With a host of cybersecurity entities in Augusta’s backyard, Graham wants to recruit esports and technology-related sports.
Why make the move from planner to supplier?
My first exposure to the sports tourism industry was actually on the supplier side, serving as a board member of the Greater Augusta Sports Council from 1997 to 2003. Once I took the reins of the PDGA as executive director in 2007, I began attending a number of industry conferences, including Connect Sports. Even though I was an event planner, I already had a good knowledge of the supplier side, but I made an effort to learn as much as I could in order to better position my organization when seeking event locations. This diverse experience made the move from planner to supplier not only easy, but very natural. I am an Augusta native and I love my city. Recruiting and servicing sporting events, while at the same time benefitting my community, is a dream job for me.
What role does the council play with the Masters?
Augusta is fortunate to host such a world-renowned high-profile sporting event in our community every year. The Master’s was founded in 1934 so it predates the Augusta Sports Council by 57 years. Due to its long history, the sports council does not play a traditional supplier role in recruiting, servicing, or staffing the event. But as a close working partner with the Augusta CVB, we support their efforts and those of our city in hosting the tens of thousands of visitors that visit Augusta each year for the tournament.
Is the council’s role to distinguish the area outside of what sporting event planners might know about the Masters?
The short answer is “yes,” but the name Augusta is synonymous with sports and the game of golf around the world, so we would be foolish not to use this notoriety to recruit all types of events. We are very fortunate to have a wealth of venues that affords us the ability to recruit many types of events. It is incumbent upon us to make the connections with these other sports and to demonstrate to them that hosting their events in Augusta, comes with the same level of community support and southern hospitality that our Masters visitors from around the world enjoy each year.
What sporting events are you targeting for the Augusta area?
Augusta already has a great reputation for hosting elite high school basketball, cycling, golf, disc golf, rowing, softball, equestrian, boxing and running events. We will continue to recruit and host these traditional sports, but we are also interested in diversifying our events portfolio by creating mutually beneficial relationships with non-traditional sports. With several cybersecurity entities based here, Augusta is quickly evolving into the cyber security center of the United States, so I’d like to leverage the current excitement and energy from our cyber community into recruiting and hosting esports and other technology-related sports events, which are all the rage in the industry right now.