Adam Wisniewski is a proud Oklahoma City Cowboy, but, no, he doesn’t ride his horse through tumbleweed-filled streets to the local saloon. The new vice president of sports development at Visit Oklahoma City describes the destination as the “modern frontier.” The Old West ran off into the sunset long ago, replaced by an ever-changing bastion of top-flight facilities and sports venues, ranging from diamond and rectangle fields to whitewater rapids.
Having spent the previous four years at the Arlington Sports Commission outside of Dallas, Wisniewski knows the look of a winner when he sees one. The fact he made the leap to Oklahoma City demonstrates his belief in the destination and its community. Already home to the Women's College World Series, Oklahoma City is primed to attract many more championships, predicts Wisniewski.
Indeed, it looks to be a very high noon with Wisniewski steering OKC’s sports tourism efforts. Connect Sports talked to Wisniewski about what’s ahead in his new role.
What makes OKC the right place for rights holders and planners to host events?
I could talk forever about the unique community we have, but sports always comes down to venues. Not only does OKC boast some world-class facilities, but our city leadership is invested in keeping the projects and advancements coming. Look no further than our brand-new convention center (340,000-plus square feet) attached to a 605-room Omni headquarter hotel and across the street from the 70-acre Scissortail Park for the perfect example. With a new outdoor multipurpose stadium, a new arena, and an expanded parks and rec facility all on the way as well, Oklahoma City is clearly a destination that is on a mission to stay top of class. Combine these incredible facilities with a budget-friendly destination in the middle of the country, and you have the perfect package for events of all scopes and sizes.
What’s ahead for Oklahoma City?
When I assess what we have here in Oklahoma City right now, I see a community whose current trajectory is pointed straight up. When I look around the industry, I’m looking to identify the groups whose arrow is also pointed straight up. Our community is on the rise and I want to find and partner with the organizations that are going to continue to rise with us.
It's been a challenging two years for everyone. Where does sports tourism stand now?
I don’t know if anything is really closing in on ‘normal’ again, but I think sports tourism is a lot closer than a lot of other industries. I think people value sports on a personal basis, more than they ever had before—whether that’s parents who were dying to get their kids back outside and exercising again, or it was fans that simply wanted to stand next to strangers and scream for the same team. We saw that sports were one of the first things people, and their dollars, were drawn back to. We aren’t at the finish line yet, but we are definitely running in the right direction if you ask me.
What changes, if any, caused initially by the pandemic will stick?
My hope is that the value of sports tourism is more universally understood and appreciated moving forward. When times were the toughest, it was sports tourism that first helped cities begin to rebound. I’ve never been prouder than when I first had the opportunity to safely host events that I knew kept a local restaurant’s doors open or gave that hotel employee their job back. Sports isn’t just fun and games—it’s a gateway to changing lives and building stronger communities. We never gave up, and I hope the permanent change to come out of all of this is that we opened a lot of eyes in the process.
How has your past experience, particularly in Arlington, prepared you for this role?
Arlington is a destination that has continually hosted the largest national and international sporting events for years and years now. There is no substitute for the kind of experience and exposure I received when I was wearing that logo on my chest working with the highest-level clients our industry has to offer. It prepared me for this role in two ways: First, I immediately recognized that OKC has those same championship capabilities as evidenced by the Women’s College World Series, and I firmly believe there will be a lot more to come on that front. Secondly, anything less than championship-caliber service is unacceptable to me moving forward, regardless of event size or who the client is.
Did Arlington Sports Commission Executive Director Matt Wilson have any advice before taking this new position?
I believe his exact quote was ‘Don’t screw it up.’ In all honesty, I really encourage everyone to find them a Matt Wilson. His leadership and friendship have been invaluable to my career.
Photo Credit: Visit Oklahoma City