2018 Game Changers: Kathy Nelson, Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation

Kathy Nelson

Kathy Nelson is president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation. As a 2018 Connect Sports Game Changer, she discusses her passion for sports tourism.

Connect with Nelson on Twitter and Instagram.

How I Got Here: I first joined the Kansas City Sports Commission in August 2010 as director of the WIN for KC program, and then moved into the president and CEO position in November 2011. Previously, I served in senior management roles in marketing, sales, and promotions at Time Warner Cable and Metro Sports and held a number of roles at FOX 4/WDAF-TV in Kansas City, including creative services manager, producer, reporter and editor. Along my career path, I have received numerous television awards for sports production.

Why I Am a Game Changer: Each year since I was named president, our organization has attracted and created an increased number of events, such as NGB and collegiate championships, that help enrich the quality of life, foster economic impact and elevate the profile of Kansas City. Whether it is giving a scholarship to a young girl to allow her to attend Camp WIN and learn the lifelong lessons of confidence, teamwork and resiliency that sports can teach, or providing training opportunities to help someone finish their first 5K or triathlon, I am focused on making a better Kansas City through sports.

Greatest Career Accomplishment: Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission for 23 years, hired me as the WIN for KC director in August, 2010. In June, 2011, Kevin died at the age of 51 after a very brief battle with cancer. Candidates from across the country were interviewed for his replacement, and in September the search committee and board of directors asked me to apply. Concerned that I had only been in my current role for a year, and keenly aware of how difficult it would be to effectively fill Kevin’s shoes, I initially declined the opportunity. I decided to face the challenge head-on and apply for the position. I was offered the job in November. I knew I had to respect the organization’s history and appreciate Kevin’s vision, yet put my own handprint on sports in KC. The search committee had interesting questions for me such as, “when will you do your Christmas shopping?” (I’m doubtful that was asked of the male job applicants). I realized that being a woman leading a sports organization would be met with scrutiny. I set up hundreds of meetings with people that had or could impact the organization. I listened, I learned and then I acted by making changes to the organization, to our mission and our vision that would better serve the needs of our city. SportsPittsburgh

Impressive Stats: 2017 was a historic year for Kansas City and the sports commission due to our success in attracting major sporting events to the region. During the 12-month period, $55 million was generated from hosting these championships. That equates to approximately 30 percent of the local hospitality industry’s annual budget and broke revenue records for numerous downtown establishments.

What I Am Working on Now: We are working to attract the NFL Draft to KC and have submitted bids for the NCAA DI Women’s Final Four and the USA Gymnastics National Championships. We are also preparing for the Kansas City Marathon this fall and celebrating the 25th anniversary of our WIN for KC program in 2019.