Just because Bree Nidds, director of sports development at VBR Sports, is enjoying using her mountain bike on an actual mountain doesn’t mean she feels the need to reinvent the wheel. Her job is to increase sports tourism opportunities in a region that’s proven to back athletic events.
“It’s not a broken toy by any means,” Nidds says of the collective effort by Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge’s municipalities. “This is a pretty well-oiled machine. It needs to be taken to the next level.”
A fitting statement for a regional nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Roanoke (the city and county), the city of Salem, and Botetourt and Franklin counties comprise this regional destination. In the past, the region relied heavily on the efforts of Salem Director of Tourism Carey Harveycutter and Salem Parks and Recreation Director John P. Shaner, two of Connect Sports’ 2017 Game Changers.
The Salem-based duo has helped lure more than 85 NCAA Division II and Division III National Championships since 1993, as well as more than 70 Virginia High School League State Championship events in football, basketball, wrestling and soccer. Among their other partners: the likes of ASA, USA Softball, USSSA, AAU, ISF, NSA, ACC, Big East, Atlantic 10, ODAC, Mountain East and CIAA.
Because her sole job is to drive more sports to the region, Nidds figures to only add to that success. “We’re looking at everything from cross-county to Ultimate Frisbee to triathlon,” says Nidds. “We’re open to a lot more than what has been here in the past.”
The International Mountain Bicycling Association recently designated the region as an IMBA silver-level Ride Center. More good news includes the booking of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Gran Fondo and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Spartan Kids Race. Also, the Roanoke Star Soccer Club is rebranding to VBR Star to align with the region’s efforts to enhance tournaments.
Selling Virginia’s Blue Ridge should be easy for Nidds. She’s fallen in the love with the area since moving from Wilmington (North Carolina) and Beaches CVB late last year. If a person who was on the University of Hawaii sailing team and then went to work for a beachfront destination can adapt to the mountains—arctic blasts and all—and thrive there, anyone can.