Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission Invites Major Players

  Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games / Photo: Courtesy GGJSC/CMU

Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games / Photo: Courtesy GGJSC/CMU

When Big Events Come to Town, the Community Wins

If you’ve never heard of the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission (GGJSC), you’re probably not alone. Chances are high, however, that you’ve experienced its impact. So now that we’ve mentioned it, perhaps you’re wondering what the GGJSC is all about?

    The simple answer is that our sports commission (like hundreds of others all over the United States) supports the development and hosting of sports events in the Grand Valley. The results are more visitors and more money flowing into the local economy.

    Last month, for example, USA Cycling’s Collegiate Road National Championships were held over three days in Whitewater, DeBeque, and downtown Grand Junction. More than 350 cyclists — family and friends, too — from dozens of colleges around the country spent a long weekend here. Hotels, restaurants, and local shops all reaped the benefits.

    All this came about thanks to the exceptional work of the GGJSC, with strong support from many of its community partners. Led by Executive Director Jennifer Stoll, the sports commission delivered the winning proposal that brought one of USA Cycling’s top events to the Grand Valley for a two-year run.

    Later this year is the U.S. Bank Rim Rock Run over the Colorado National Monument. After the sports commission came aboard to help local organizers enhance the marathon — the GGJSC added a half-marathon — the event has been gaining national attention and is expected to boast a record 600-plus runners.

    In addition to offering support to build established sports events, the GGJSC has been instrumental in bringing the Train to Hunt regional qualifier and national championship competitions to the Grand Mesa. There’s also the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games at Colorado Mesa University (CMU), with the GGJSC managing local operations. And, of course, there’s the JUCO World Series, the region’s premier sports event, which the GGJSC lends a hand in promoting.

  USA Cycling’s Collegiate Road National Championships / Photo: Courtesy    14k Media

USA Cycling’s Collegiate Road National Championships / Photo: Courtesy 14k Media

    CMU, an NCAA Division II school that boasts more than two dozen sports programs, is the biggest financial supporter of the GGJSC. The commission was created by school president Tim Foster in 2013. Like Visit Grand Junction and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP), the GGJSC is committed to bringing in visitors and helping create exposure opportunities for businesses and the university.

    “The sports commission is an economic driver for the area because it supports, attracts, and builds sporting events for locals, and it helps attract non-local athletes and their support teams,” says Jamie Lummis, a partner at Moody Insurance and chairman of the GGJSC’s board of directors. “Once here, these folks stay in our hotels, shop at area retail establishments, and eat in our restaurants. The outside-Grand-Junction visitor supports our community with new dollars and helps support the local quality of life and retail business we use and benefit from year-round.”

    While Stoll says progress has been steady, a huge opportunity is at hand for the community to benefit from these efforts by voting to double the lodging tax — a tax that only applies to visitors. In November, Grand Junction voters are likely to decide whether or not to boost taxes on tourists to 6 percent from the current 3 percent.

    Last year, the city collected $1.47 million from tourists and business travelers. All the money went to Visit Grand Junction. The new proposal calls for a three-way split of the additional three percent, with Visit Grand Junction, the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance, and the GGJSC as recipients. If approved, it would mean more than $400,000 will go to the sports commission, more than double the GGJSC’s current budget.

    “Over the past five years we’ve established proof of concept of the role sport and recreation events play in our community, both from an economic and a quality-of-life perspective,’’ notes Stoll. “The tax increase would help us significantly expand upon the existing foundation.”

    Even before the vote, Stoll is leading the charge to familiarize the community about the value of sport tourism, a booming industry worth more than $10 billion nationally last year, according to the nearly-800-member National Association of Sports Commissions.

    There have been luncheons with local sports event promoters and business owners to learn and listen to ways the GGJSC can pitch in. There also have been informal gatherings of business leaders and their friends to familiarize them with how the sports commission is a win-win situation.

    “There’s been significant collaboration at play in the community, and that’s a bright spot highlighting the positive trends we are seeing,’’ says Stoll. “We are working with Visit GJ and GJEP on a grant related to the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver. We are collaborating with more than 55 entities across the valley, both local and non-local event promoters. I believe there is a renewed energy for working together to help our community. Whether it’s a cycling event, an archery event, or a traditional team sport, our community is becoming a model for thinking innovatively about how to improve the community in which we work and play through sport.” :