Lynn Hunt, vice president of sales for the Quad Cities CVB and vice chair of the Quad Cities Sports Commission, has the task to promote an area known for its collection of towns rather than any one of them. For the record, the Quad Cities are Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and the Illinois towns of Rock Island, Moline and East Moline (yes, that’s five—and we have an explanation here). The Mississippi River ties them together, and figures in the attraction of events to the region.
The area is easily accessible by major interstates and Quad City International Airport, and has more than 6,000 hotel rooms at budget to luxury price points. “Since 2000, we have bid on and earned the right to host over 200 events, providing more than $200 million in economic impact on our community,” says Hunt. “Over the last 10 years, the sports market has delivered 75 percent of the group room nights sold by our sales team.” It’s an impressively busy slate and one Hunt was happy to talk about with Connect Sports.
What makes the Quad Cities unique in the context of sports tourism?
With a combined population of 400,000, the region brings you all the excitement of a big city with all the hospitality of a small town. The sports commission works closely with our regional sports venues to partner when bidding on sporting events. Our bistate, multicity service area provides us with a multitude of venues to explore what works best for the event, and more avenues to identify sponsorships and fundraising opportunities for the rights holder or national governing body.
A good example of our unique capabilities is the Professional Disc Golf Assocation Amateur & Junior Disc Golf World Championships. Our region offers 10 unique disc golf courses, and eight of those are championship play ready. This allowed the PDGA to expand their invite to an additional 200 qualifying players over 2016.
What are near and long-term goals?
The biggest long-term goal is to keep up with the competition when it comes to large indoor, multisport facilities. Communities that embrace and react to the opportunity and work with economic development folks to identify private- and public-sector ways to take advantage of the financial gains that sports tourism brings will win the race.
In the short term, the goal is to keep ourselves in front of rights holders and governing bodies by attending industry event to have face time to build relationships. Recently, we added a staff position of sales and event manager, and Amber Hamer has been in that role for over a year now. Amber works to understand the host deliverables; connects the dots with local facilities, promoters, media and PR efforts; and she manages local organizing committees and is on-site to make sure the events go smoothly.
What is the corporate sponsorship/municipal support atmosphere?
Our unique regional structure provides the Quad Cities with two states and several municipalities for funding and sponsorship. We are held accountable for reviewing the ROI of an event, so that is taken into consideration before the bid process, and ideas are formulated and discussed with the public sector. The gaming industry is also a good partner and is able to provide grant opportunities for those events that have a significant impact on our communities. The Quad Cities Lodging Association has also recognized the impact of sports tourism to drive weekend occupancy rates.
The Quad Cities has over 6,000 hotel rooms, and the QCLA has created a one-of-a-kind fundraising campaign to help raise bid funds. Our team works with each individual sporting events to identify who they are and what sponsors can gain from partnering with their event. Sponsorship is also driven by a need to produce ROI, so if you wrap it up, funding is a two-way street and the flow must make sense.
What is your signature event?
The Quad Cities Marathon runs through two states, five cities and two bridges across the Mississippi River. This event is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and draws runners from seven countries. It’s a party with 350 entertainers on the course and seven ways to compete.