Jon Schmieder Aims to Standardize Sports Tourism

Jon Schmieder will tell you every sports commission needs an Ed Durkin—a person who cancels out the noise so planners can concentrate on their job.

Jon Schmieder

Case in point: During a rare frost delay years ago in Phoenix, Durkin ran to stores across the city to buy hand-warming pockets for referees working USA Field Hockey’s National Hockey Festival. “Karen Collins still talks about that,” says Schmieder, referring to USA Field Hockey’s former director of event logistics. 

Just as there is only one Durkin, who worked under Schmieder at the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission, there are only a handful of CVBs and sports commissions that stand out to rights holders. The rest are left to ask what the likes of the Virginia Beach CVB—a Schmieder favorite—do so well.

As the founder and CEO of the Huddle Up Group, a consultancy to more than 60 destinations, Schmieder hears that question almost daily. Finally, he decided the sports tourism industry needed a universal standard to measure DMO performances and opportunities. 

This year, Schmieder has simultaneously rolled out a best practices book, “Sports Service” and the Sports Tourism Index, a measuring stick allowing destinations an apples-to-apples comparison with organizations with similar geography, staff size and budgets.

“Both the book and index came out of requests from our partners,” Schmieder says. “This unifies them. It’s a standardization.” 

Schmieder has valuable experience and opinions about sports tourism to spare, but made sure the projects were fueled by perspectives of top-flight planners. Jeff Jarnecke, the former director of championships and alliances at the NCAA, and Beth Porreca, senior director of strategic operations at USA Football, were among those who contributed to the book and web portal.

“We went behind the curtain,” says Schmieder.

So far, about 30 destinations have completed the index. Schmieder hopes to reach more than 100. In the meantime, the short-term goal is 50, a number he says would allow for meaningful data.

Of course, facilities are at the end of most planners’ yellow-brick road. The index measures three types of venues: Stadiums, convention centers, and grass-roots facilities youth tournaments tend to flock to. The upside is rights holders will know what experts consider to be the best facilities they are looking for. The downside is some CVBs and sports commissions may be forced to tone down their hyperbole.

“Everyone in the country says they have a top-10 soccer facility,” says Schmieder. “Guess what? Only 10 cities do and there are 540 cities that may not know the difference between nice facilities, and what we call “anchor” venues that can host the best events out there.”

Beyond facilities, the index also measures destination strength, organizational structure and events. There are about 1,900 measurements taken into account to reach the final index score which ranges from 0 to 100. Statistics can be broken down by relevant comparisons that will provide information destinations can provide to local officials to make a case for more funding or facilities.

Schmieder underscored the vision for this new measurement tool, “The point of the Index is for everyone across the country to have one metric that is the same. There is more to what we do than room nights and economic impact.  The Index provides a way for everyone to keep score in a fluid and ongoing manner.”