The Madison Area Sports Commission had a matter of hours to sell Wisconsin’s capital as the next host of the CrossFit Games. The idea made all the sense in the world to commission President and CEO Deb Archer, CDME, and Vice President Jamie Patrick. But news that the competition to find the “Fittest on Earth” was moving from outside Los Angeles to Madison from 2017 to 2019 caught at least some by surprise. After all, it’s rumored CrossFit’s RFP drew the interest of about 100 destinations.
It turns out a short but fateful site visit last August was when the Madison Area Sports Commission officially came of age in its sixth year. Archer and Patrick agree bringing CrossFit’s national event—which draws 50,000 visitors and 400 to 500 athletes throughout the week—to Madison is the organization’s crowning achievement. They took Connect Sports behind the scenes of a major sports tourism victory ahead of this week’s CrossFit Open 17.5 in Madison.
Madison, the terrific college sports town that’s home to the Wisconsin Badgers, has a surprisingly active community given its snow-filled winters. Greater Madison CVB wanted to host events that reflect that fact. Hence, the sports commission was born. While the city forged a relationship with Ironman at the turn of the 21st century and hosted the now-defunct World Outdoor Games, the commission has added to Madison’s repertoire. USA Climbing and USA Cycling count Madison as a mainstay stop, and Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin is running there for the first time June 11.
Patrick’s interest in the CrossFit Games dates back to the commission’s infancy. He felt the city and event missions meshed. “Madison is a bunch of doers,” says Patrick. “That’s the profile of CrossFit athletes.” At first, Patrick envisioned starting with one of CrossFit’s regional events. But when he saw the RFP pop out on the Connect Sports website, Patrick started to think bigger. “We went full throttle in,” he explains.
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Archer credits the commission’s ultimate success with the relationship Patrick formed with Billy Rodgers, CrossFit’s point person for events. “There was a stretch Billy and I would talk every day—not just email,” says Patrick. “We built trust. He knew I’d tell it to him straight.” Archer says that rapport ensured Patrick and his team had access to whatever they needed when they attended the 2016 CrossFit Games on a scouting trip.