By Mary Malik | Photo by John Goldy
“In the past several years there’s been a trend toward entire families turning these tournament weekends into mini-vacations,” Wigman says. “The Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau decided to be more intentional in attracting these tournaments — and the dollars they generate — to the Summit County area. With this in mind, they recently formed the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron.”
As a brief history, in 2008 a consortium that included representatives from Summit, Stark, Medina, and Portage counties developed SP4RTS Ohio, with the idea that the counties would co-promote the region to attract sporting events to the area. The premise of SP4RTS Ohio was that, between all four counties, the needs of any event in terms of fields and venues, lodging and restaurants, could be met. Over the years Summit County found itself as the only county left actually using the SP4RTS Ohio name and made the decision to reinvent itself as the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron.
“We still use the assets of the four counties but felt that a more concentrated effort would provide the greatest level of economic impact for the region,” Wigman says.
As the former special events coordinator for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland and former destination sales manager for the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, the promotion to sports development strategist for the Sports Alliance was a perfect fit for Wigman.
“I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and have played and been involved with sports my whole life,” she says. “My experience with the Gay Games and the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, have readied me to promote Summit County to potential visitors, letting them know we have everything they need for a successful event.”
With events like the King James Shooting Stars Classic, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and All-American Soap Box Derby, the Akron area is no stranger to hosting major competitions. Events like these validate Summit and surrounding counties as a sports destination, capable of hosting thousands of guests of all ages.
“The sports market means a great deal to the local economy,” Wigman says. “The hotel, dining, and retail dollars is new money coming into the area. Tapping the youth sports market is a great way to get people into the community and spending money.”
Finding youth events and tournaments to attract to the area can be challenging. Alliance representatives will attend yearly trade shows and meet with tournament directors to discuss their needs and propose Summit County as an option for their event. Internet research is also a great resource for finding potential events. In fact, while doing some recent research, Wigman discovered a local connection to a table tennis tournament right in her own backyard.
“In researching lesser known sports, I discovered a table tennis champion, Samson Dubina, living in Canton,” Wigman says. “After connecting with Samson, Summit County hosted over 200 competitors for a table tennis tournament this May.”
The services that the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron provides are tailored to each individual event. Often a youth tournament is not equipped with an event coordinator, and the alliance is an invaluable resource.
“The alliance works with a local organizing committee who has a vast understanding of running tournaments,” Wigman says.
“Put it all together with all of our resources and we will accommodate families for few days of sports, food, and fun right here in Summit County.”
For more information: visitakron-summit.org
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