Late last year, Rob Wells assumed the position as the director of the Savannah (Georgia) Sports Council after working in similar capacities in Naples and Sarasota, Florida. Beyond the scenery, Savannah is a very different market—one in which Wells feels his career will be allowed to flourish. He talked to Connect Sports about the move, what makes Savannah so special and achieving work-life balance with two small children.
Where did you get your start in this business?
I worked in sports all through college—sports information, intramurals. It’s always been a part of my life. I always joke that I’m still doing the same job I’ve done since I was 8, when I was that annoying little kid going to every other kid’s house and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go play some kickball!'” So, I’m still doing that, I’m just annoying adults now instead of kids. My first full-time job out of college was with a resort in Naples, where I was recreation manager. Then I was lucky enough to get a job with the city of Bowling Green, Ohio, where I was sports manager for the city.
Then things really took off for you when you found your way into sports tourism. How did those doors open?
I started in Naples in 2013, and we had a lot of success in my short time there. When the job in Sarasota (as the director of the sports commission) came open in 2015, it was a destination that was doing some great things, and there was more on the way. It was just an opportunity to go work for a little bit bigger market when it came to sports tourism. Sarasota allowed me to learn a lot more and work with some bigger events and bigger projects.
We were successful in bringing USA Volleyball’s Beach Junior National championship to Sarasota, and there was an event called the Wilson Premier Baseball Championships, which was very successful. Right before I left, we successfully bid to host the NCAA National Rowing Championships. Sarasota has really made a name for itself in the rowing community. It had already won the right to host the world championships when I started, but that was the last event that I got to work there, and it was really awesome to see an Olympic-caliber event take place and all the athletes from 60-some countries. It was exciting, and I learned a lot from that one event.
Why was a move to Savannah the right fit at this time in your career?
I had been to Savannah a couple of times and had really fallen in love with the city. So, I did a little bit of research about the city, the sports council and the set-up here, and it just seemed like an opportunity to work for an organization that would allow me to take risks and to grow.