As 2018 comes to a close, our team at the Huddle Up Group reflects on some of our favorites from this past year. We have been blessed to work with some great people in awesome destinations and organizations across the country. This list isn’t at all inclusive of all the cool things we have been fortunate enough to be part of, just a few highlights…..
Coolest Old School Arena – The Colisee in Lewiston, Maine. Site of the second Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) versus Sonny Liston fight in 1965. This is the fight that produced the famous Ali photo after his first round knockout of Liston. This community is using sports to bridge the divide between two cities that has existed for over 100 years, great things are on the horizon there.
Coolest Old School Arena II – Hersheypark Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Site of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game in 1962. You can feel Wilt’s presence in the building.
Best Steak – Hands down, Jeff Ruby’s in downtown Cincinnati. Maybe the best steak we have ever had.
Most Awesome Presentation – Jason Williford of the Culture Index. Jason’s session at the NASC’s Chief Executive Summit was the best professional development presentation I’ve ever attended. We could have spent several more hours listening to Jason talk about their work.
Awesome Youth Program – Upward Sports. If you have never encountered Caz McCaslin, he is one of the most moving people I’ve ever met.
Historic Ballpark – It’s tough to beat anything relating to the Durham Bulls, and the old stadium used in the Kevin Costner movie didn’t disappoint.
Top Facility Projects – USA BMX headquarters in Tulsa and the Louisville Urban League sports complex will both have great impacts on their respective communities in the future. We were proud to play a small part in both.
Most Moving Awards Event – The Musials in St. Louis. Great production, first class ceremony, superlative award winners. Always one of the events our team looks forward to each year.
Biggest Election Day Win – Grand Junction, Colorado. Their mid-term election day vote set the sports commission there up for long-term success.
Epic Tournament Facility – Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The Etown Sports Complex turned their community completely around, using sports tourism as a vehicle for change. Great things lie ahead in Etown.
First Class Destination – Birmingham, Alabama. This is one of those towns that if you have not been there to experience it, you can’t really know how awesome it is.
Top Technology – EventConnect. Their platform is changing the sports tourism and events industry more and more every day. Their technology will alter how we plan and run events in the years to come.
Favorite State Tourism Conference (Tie) – South Dakota and Nebraska both put on a top tier event. Idaho, Texas, and Oklahoma also produce great shows.
Vacation Spot – Sunriver, Oregon. What an awesome place, we will go back.
Celebrity Meet and Greet – Chef Aaron Sanchez. He is every bit as genuine in person as he appears on television.
Favorite Number – 50. This year we signed on with Richmond, Virginia to provide them a strategic plan for their growing sports tourism efforts. Richmond is the 50thdestination we have worked with since the founding of the Huddle Up Group in 2012.
Advocacy Group – The twelve members of our advisory board (aka – “The Rock Stars”). They have given us great thoughts on the industry and how we can all better contribute to it.
Legacy Event – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) Boys 18 & 16 National Championships, which has called Kalamazoo, Michigan home since 1943. Looking over the past champions board you see the names of some of the all-time greats: Chang, Krickstein, Connors, Laver, McEnroe. We need more events like this that call one community home over a long period of time.
The People – We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about some of the great people we have the honor of working with…..Jennifer Stoll obtaining her doctorate degree all while running a sports commission and being super mom…..Jason Sands flourishing in Fort Worth…..Janna Clark in Etown leading the vision for the future of their sports complex…..Dev, Jason, Eric, Evan, Ashley, and the team at SFA, contributing great things to the markets they serve…..Karl and Greg in Louisville, raising the bar in our industry higher and higher every year.....Patrick Higgins and Connect Sports who have been with us since the beginning, supporting our team all along the journey.
Finally, my team. Gary Alexander joined the hall of fame ranks at the NASC Symposium (the fifth hall of fame to which he has been inducted). Caroline Brown joined our team and has pushed us to new heights as we work to contribute as much as we can to the sports tourism and events industry. And most important, my team at home, Sharon and Brock, who celebrate every victory with me and make all this work worthwhile.
There are so many more people, places, and things we could have listed. We just wanted to take a moment to reflect back and be thankful for all the great experiences and success we have been fortunate enough to have this past year.
We hope you and your family have a great start to the New Year and a prosperous 2019!