Can the Atlantic City Sports Commission Save the City?

By Parrish Walton, January 27, 2015

Atlantic City needs a boost, and that boost better be big. After a rough 18-months that saw casinos seemingly closing left and right—including Revel, a $2 billion property that lasted 10 months—city officials were looking to find a way to bring some cachet back to Atlantic City. With the help of Meet AC, officials created the Atlantic City Sports Commission with hopes of turning “America’s Favorite Playground” fun again.

Meet AC’s President and Chief Executive Jim Wood (full disclosure: Jim Wood’s son works for Collinson Media & Events, though I’m pretty sure he has no clue this was being written) didn’t mince words when he spoke at a press conference outlining the goals and purpose of the new sports commission: “Sports is big business. Even during the Great Recession, sports became an even bigger business as the sector continued to grow. With the formation of the Atlantic City Sports Commission, we are positioning Atlantic City to attract even more sporting events to our city year-round.”

The creation of the sports commission doesn’t mean Atlantic City was previously out of the sports travel business. It has a long history of hosting big time events, particularly in boxing and mixed martial arts. The city will target youth sporting events as well, such as the 18th annual Star Struck Invitational held last week, which brought 25,000 gymnastics and cheerleading fans to downtown Atlantic City.

Wood said that event would contribute close to $7 million in economic impact, including 4,000 hotel room nights.

While not every sporting event will be that big, the hope is more will be in that range, helping solidify Atlantic City as the premier destination in the Northeast. With hotel room rates spiking as we enter the post-recession uptick, many cities are seeing sporting events—particularly at the youth level—get some pushback on rebates and rates.

While many cities can afford to do that with corporate clients coming back, Atlantic City could use the casino blight as a selling point as a city that still wants sporting events above some other markets. What their sell will be isn’t something known at this time, but city Mayor Don Guardian understands the need to get more sports to Atlantic City.

“I think this a great strategy for Atlantic City, because whenever you talk about sports, it’s something that everyone can relate to,” he said. “Bringing big sporting events and sports-related conventions in is not an entirely new thing for Atlantic City. But I think a unified, concentrated approach is going to mean a lot for the city.”

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