When it comes to sports, Jason Sands, director of sports for the Fort Worth CVB, says his love of the game started in his childhood. He’d go to Chicago White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls games—during the Michael Jordan era—with his family. Sands, 38, grew up in Michigan City in northern Indiana, an area commonly referred to as “the region” for its close proximity to the Chicago and Michigan state lines.
After graduating from Indiana University, he worked as the director of sales and marketing for EVP Tour, and the director of sports development at South Shore Sports. He then spent four years as executive director of Evansville Sports Corporation in Evansville, Indiana, before transferring last May to Fort Worth, Texas, a city many commonly refer to as “the gateway to West.” We talked to Sands, the father of two daughters, Brooklyn, 12, and Avery, 8, about life in sports tourism within the DFW metroplex.
Why did you make the move from Evansville to Fort Worth?
I was in Evansville for four years. It’s a great community and we accomplished a lot. Fort Worth presented an opportunity that was just too good to pass on. It’s the 15th biggest city in the country. It’s got an unbelievable downtown and there’s a lot of great sports happening here. We’ve got events like The Colonial PGA Invitational, NASCAR and IndyCar races at Texas Motor Speedway. TCU— one of the most successful Division 1 programs in all of college sports—is based here.
There’s also the new $540 million Dickies Arena, a 14,000-seat multipurpose arena with over 90,000 square feet of meeting space that’s scheduled to open in late 2019. Fort Worth is a city on the rise and I was excited to jump on board and contribute to its sports tourism initiative.
What distinguishes Fort Worth?
The DFW area is the fourth biggest metro market in the country with two of the 15 biggest cities in America only 30 miles apart. For us in Fort Worth, we focus on delivering that Texas experience people are looking for when they come to the Lone Star State. We have some great attractions that deliver that western experience but at the same time, we have the cultural district that has the Will Rogers Memorial Center and it features some of the best museums in the country including the Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. We also host first class sporting events. Fort Worth is scheduled to host the 2019- 2022 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, the 2020-2022 AAC Men’s Basketball Championships and the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball first and second rounds.
What do you think is a big surprise for people visiting Fort Worth for the first time?
I don’t think people realize how big Fort Worth is and how much there is to do here. We have one of the safest, cleanest downtowns in the world with more than 55 restaurants and retail outlets, more than 4,000 hotel rooms and the 250,000-plus-sq.-ft. convention center. We’ve got the longest running stock show and rodeo—more than 100 years—that happens every January and we’ve got a world renowned equestrian center in Will Rogers Memorial Center that is booked 24 hours, 7 days a week 365 days per year. The Fort Worth Stockyards features the world’s largest Honky Tonk bar—Billy Bob’s— which has concerts every weekend. With the addition of the new Dickies Arena, and the concerts and sporting events it will host, there truly is something for everyone in Fort Worth.