Linda Logan is the only executive director the Greater Columbus Sports Commission has ever known. She helped form and has led the Commission since its inception in 2002. The organization is responsible for the Ohio city hosting 425 new sporting events that have generated close to $535 million in visitor spending. Immediately prior, Logan was the director of sports marketing for the Greater Columbus CVB. Logan chaired the Local Organizing Committee for the opening of MAPFRE Stadium (formerly Columbus Crew Stadium), the first soccer-specific stadium built in the United States. She also partnered with the Ohio Valley Region of USA Volleyball to grow the sport of volleyball in the Columbus region to become one of the largest in the U.S. with more than 17,000 members—14,000 of which being girls ages 10-18. Connect Sports met with Logan recently to learn more about the desination’s relationship with USA Volleyball, the MAPFRE and the giant Arnold Sports Festival.
Tell us about the unique partnership Columbus has with USA Volleyball?
We have grown an amazing relationship with the sport itself. USA Volleyball and the Ohio Valley region of USA Volleyball was one of my very first customers here. It started with the regionals and we do seven weekends a year, currently. Our commissioner Bob Price, CEO of Ohio Valley Region, was one of the first people I called on. That was in ’91 and it took us until 2000 to get a national tournament. Then in 2012, we hosted the Girls’ Junior National Championships, which is really the biggest tournament you can host in America. We were the smallest market to host it. We knew that it was a wonderful opportunity for us, so we decided to make it more than just the volleyball. We brought in face painters and photo booths and musicians. We just wanted there to be things to do, because we knew that if we were the smallest market that ever did something like this, then we needed them to come back.
How has the relationship grown to benefit both the region and USA Volleyball?
Our convention center has hosted more volleyball tournaments than any other building in America. Hosting the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball National Championships in 2016 was in large part because of the Ohio Valley Region/USA Volleyball success and that we have so many girls playing volleyball in our region. We’ve played a small part in growing the sport, too—not just having these events, but also the fact that we’ve been working with Ohio Valley Region since 1991 and we’ve provided these girls the opportunity. Not only are we booking the events, but we are touching people’s lives to be leaders in the sport on all levels.
Tell us about MAPFRE Stadium and its impact on the region.
It’s very iconic, much like a Wrigley Fieldor Augusta National. MAPFRE holds that recognition for being the sentimental home of the U.S. team. [Kansas City Chiefs founder and former owner] Lamar Hunt, who did as much for the sport of soccer than he did for football, had a vision about this league called Major League Soccer. With the stadium, the home field for Columbus Crew SC, we’ve seen the growth of the sport in this community. The team has been here 20 years. We now have home grown talent that play on Columbus Crew that played in our high school championships, that went on to play in college, that now play professionally and have made the national team.
A discussion about Columbus Sports is incomplete with mentioning The Arnold Sports Festival. What can you tell us?
Their founder, Jim Lorimer, is one our board members and just one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. He has built this event into something that’s hard to even describe, because it’s so special and so important to the community. There’s really something for everyone. There’s 17,000 athletes, 180,000 spectators, more than 1,000 health and wellness professionals including doctors, physical trainers, massage therapists. People volunteer their time at a high level. It’s amazing.