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RSF Director Speaks at 2023 Sports ETA Facilities Summit

By Chris Terry - RSF Board President

May 23, 2023

The kickoff session for the Sports ETA 2023 Facility Summit was Sports Facility Development 101. The event was held on May 8th at the Downtown Marriott in Kansas City. The panel was moderated by William Knox, President of Legacy Sports Group. The overall goal of the summit was to provide attendees with information from a variety of groups and firms strongly associated with community development, market assessment, and funding options for the development of sports facilities that will benefit the community and attract sports tourism. 

The panelist included Brandon Dowling – Principle of Johnson Companies; Ed Hruska – Director of the Rochester Sports Foundation (MN); John Blazano – Senior Vice President of Ziegler; Roxanne Steinhoff – Legal Analyst & Sports Consultant of Civitas. Each of the panelists engage in some manner of the sports facility development process. 

The educational session was at capacity for attendees from around the country and it included a significant number of engaging conversations and networking.  Key points taken away from the event included:

1) Sports and entertainment projects require the need for strong advocates and a bold vision. Answer the hard questions and keep them at the forefront.

2) Location is critical for any sports complex/arena - accessibility, infrastructure, hotels/restaurants, etc. Private development must drive, or at least be actively involved if not leading!  Need to find multiple pockets of equity - Real Equity ($)

3) Research is critical with a multiple assessment approach – data should support the business case for the need. Rely on feasibility study completed by a third party. Once the data supports the project – the key is to make the decision to go and quickly ramp up the timeline and the business model.

4) There are several communities with full support for utilizing local lodging and hotel tax (Kearney NE, Kansas City; Eau Claire). State support noted in Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa - significant dollars available for sports tourism and sports facility development as many communities see the value in sports tourism. No one had the perfect financing/funding solution – cities need to get innovative.

5) Many of the facilities that are now operating successfully are done so based on operator experience – which comes from the private sector – not public staff.

The session was followed by onsite tours of three newly constructed and a couple in progress of being constructed sports facilities and complexes in the Kansas City Area. The facilities toured included Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville, MO; Homefield Sports Complex, Wyandotte County, MO; and the brand-new practice facility for the Kansas City Current women’s professional soccer team.

We also made a stop on our travels back to Minnesota at the newly constructed RecPlex in West Des Moines, IA. Additional information on this and other facilities will be shared on our web site soon.

As a board member and current President of the President of the Rochester Sports Foundation, I was thrilled and proud to see our Executive Director, Ed Hruska’s involvement with the panel of national experts in sports tourism and facility development. Ed is an outstanding advocate and represented the Rochester Area very well by sharing the great work that has been accomplished to date in our community as it relates to sports facility development.  Ed’s leadership has us focused on a strategic plan that brings a winning approach to sports and recreation complexes.

As an organization, the Rochester Sports Foundation recognizes the power of sports tourism to drive economic outcomes as well as the importance of recreation to promote healthy communities. To support this effort, it is critical we develop and create facilities to support these outcomes in our community. We know it takes time, we have accomplished much work to date and will continue to elevate this work as we move forward.