When the top job at the 400-acre Grand Park sports complex outside of Indianapolis became open, William Knox, CSEE, took the opportunity to lead the complex he helped plan as director of the Hamilton County (Indiana) Sports Authority. Since October 2016, Knox has overseen the facility, which includes 26 baseball and softball diamonds, 31 multisport fields and a field house for indoor sports. The 20-year sports tourism veteran discussed with Connect Sports why he made the move.
What was your role in the development of Grand Park while you were with the Hamilton County Sports Authority?
I was fortunate to be a huge part of shaping what the complex looked like and getting in on the ground level. When I got hired at the Hamilton County Sports Authority in 2009, it was just a concept. Shortly after I came on board, the mayor of Westfield, Indiana, convened the Westfield Sports Commission, which shaped what the complex would look like. I co-chaired that committee. We did a thorough investigation, talking to various stakeholder groups about potential usage. We got to the point where we got enough input and built off that.
At that point, [the Hamilton County Sports Authority] was the sole marketing arm for the complex, and in some cases was booking business for the complex. As the complex grew, they started doing some of their own sales and we were looked at as a resource to help them fill gaps.
How did that lead to your transition to becoming director of the facility?
Ironically, my departure from Hamilton County was largely motivated by me wanting to branch out and do some consulting on my own. I reached out to the City of Westfield; they had a transition with their director [at Grand Park]. It seemed to be a good fit for me at the time even though I was looking to go out on my own. I had never been on this side of the business.
What have you learned? And what has surprised you?
The park has been open since 2014, and a lot of our initial deals with vendors are coming up for renewal. Because of that, I have been able to learn the business a lot quicker than I would have otherwise. It is vastly different from being in a CVB. I not only have to sell and market the facility, but also manage the facility maintenance operations and scheduling.
I’ve learned more about turf management than I ever thought I would. [With] all the grass fields we have and the high utilization on those fields, it’s a balancing act we have to go through, on almost a daily basis. That whole part of the business I was not aware of when I was on the other side.