Osborne: A team captain for the local sports industry

Colorado Springs Sports Corp. CEO Tom Osborne’s concept for state and national amateur games was patterned after Olympic events. The 2010 Rocky Mountain State Games is expected to bring more than 7,000 people to the Pikes Peak region from July 30 through Aug. 1.

The former Montana State University basketball player recently weighed in the future of his industry, and on the role Colorado Springs and the region can play.

How does the Sports Corp. work with other amateur sports organizations like Olympic national governing bodies?

We do a lot to help the NGBs and the USOC, especially surrounding events. For February’s women’s USA Hockey vs. Finland, for example, we helped by selling tickets, distributing posters and arranging for a venue. We also made arrangements for visiting athletes to stay at the Olympic Training Center. Whenever we partner with an NGB or other group, we make sure that the event is paid for through things like ticket sales and sponsorships. We’ll be doing something similar when USA Boxing hosts its national championships here in July. We also, with Mike Moran’s help, get the media in on what’s going on. More than 5,000 people turned out in February — and the event paid for itself.

How has the field of sports changed during your career?

The biggest shift is at the grassroots. It used to be that most of the athletes competing in amateur sports were individuals. Today we’ve seen the development of more club teams that travel all over the country. Those programs feed events like the State Games. Parents are very involved. They’re willing to pay for coaches and travel, whether it’s soccer, track and field, lacrosse or other team events. Amateur competition has gotten more professional, more organized.

Which aspects of the sports industry are the most rewarding … and challenging?

The most rewarding is that when we’re staging an event like the Colorado State Games, everyone’s working together. We had about 1,200 volunteers when Michelle Kwan was here last year. It gave the kids a sense of the Olympics. … The challenges are there. Things get hectic — and making sure that events pay for themselves isn’t easy in this economy.

How are amateur athletes reacting to all of the press about performance drugs used by athletes?

That’s been a big initiative for us. The Sports Corp is partnering with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to send a strong message, especially to younger athletes. Our “I compete clean,” video campaign last year featured athletes like Apolo Anton Ohno, Michelle Kwan and others. Every State Games participant must sign an application that says they agree not to use drugs. We aren’t equipped to do medical testing, but we’re trying to instill that you’re not playing fair if you need drugs to compete.

How could Colorado Springs do better as a partner to the Sports Corp?

In a perfect world, it would be tremendous if the city could help with sustained event funding. The convention and visitors bureau will tell you that we bring a lot to the city, including heads in beds. But even without that, we’ve built our program on partnerships — and each event must be self-supporting. We’ve had great support from El Pomar Foundation and the Daniels Fund as well as in-kind help from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the World Arena, Fort Carson and the Parks department. The UCCS Sports Management program has provided experienced interns from up and down the Front Range. Companies like the Broadmoor also helped out when we brought the State Games here in 2007.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Tom Osbourne.