Five hundred thousand dollars - in contributions of $100,000 each from the Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peaks, aka the convention and visitors bureau; The Sports Corp.; the city; the county and the state was the seed money that helped bring the 2008 U.S. Senior Open to the Springs.
Denver paid nothing to land the 2009 Churchill Cup International Rugby Tournament. Yep, a big fat zero. There was use of collective partnerships and venues that got it done, but no cash was given.
The Churchill Cup is North America’s premier international rugby event with six teams competing. England, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Argentina and Georgia will battle each other June, 6, 10 and 14 with the championship match being played on June 21. All preliminary matches will be played at Glendale’s Infinity Park and the championship will be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Denver landed a high-profile international event by being smart. They “looked around at underserved sports markets, found that the Churchill Cup tournament was being played in various cities in Canada, then the championship was played in Chicago,” said Sue Baldwin, director of business development for Denver Sports, an organization whose purpose is to create a legacy of economic and social vitality through sport. “We want to build the sport, build the market and own rugby in the U.S. and we can keep it all in one city.”
I asked if we could get one of the matches here in the Springs – maybe at Falcon Stadium. She related that “after this first year, maybe we could diversify along the Front Range.”
The amount of tourists’ money flowing into the community must be huge. It is still too early for ticket projections for the Churchill Cup. The Frozen Four Hockey tournament did bring in $11 million for just the final weekend. For the rugby tournament, teams will be in Denver for weeks – spending money.
International rugby teams travel with around 30 people per team, (in rugby 15 players take the field) players and fans will be flying in from all over the world. After soccer, rugby is the most-played sport on the globe.
Maybe the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. had too much going on with Olympic Day Festivities, and the Sports Corp. 2009 College Football Kickoff Luncheon to have paid much attention to a sporting event of such large potential. Someone with the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. should have reached out to Denver to see if the Springs could have capitalized on the Churchill Cup.
Even before the International Churchill Cup, Infinity Park, in May, will be the site of the U.S. Rugby division 1, 2 and 3 men’s championships. Teams from around the country will be traveling to Denver. These games will be replayed on Fox Sports, while the Churchill Cup will be broadcast around the world. This is a major marketing coup for Denver.
Denver is in the process of once again getting the international spotlight beamed on them and this time the cost was zero. The Springs may as well start raising the seed money for the U.S. Golf Association’s Women’s open in 2010. I bet that will cost more than zero.
Meanwhile, Denver will be wooing the 2012 Golden Oldies Rugby tournament that will attract as many as 2,500 rugby players to the Mile High City. It is currently being played in Sydney, Australia.
With the U.S. Olympic Committee here (for now) and the Springs sometimes being referred to as the amateur sports capital of the U.S., we should capitalize on the worldwide amateur sport of rugby.
Colorado Springs should use Baldwin’s “could diversify” comment as an invitation. Let’s see the city’s sports leaders put together a sincere proposal to book some rugby matches for Falcon Stadium. Although it can’t match the number of Denver’s stadiums, the Springs can prove that enthusiasm and aggressiveness are winning traits both on the rugby field and in competition for rugby tournaments.
Maybe the Springs can get some of Denver’s rugby leftovers in 2010.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.