Power Lunch: Sports economy offers potential

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By all accounts, sports and wellness businesses bring about $400 million annually to the Colorado Springs economy — and some experts believe the city is poised to become the sports and wellness capital of the nation.

The city already is known for its sports assets: the U.S. Olympic Committee, more than two dozen national governing bodies ranging from table tennis to figure skating, a host of businesses catering to fitness buffs and a university determined to become a research leader for training, sports management and wellness.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal is hosting a “power lunch” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, at the Colorado Springs Marriott, where a panel of five speakers will discuss the sports and wellness sector and its potential for creating jobs in Colorado Springs. (See page 11 for more information.)

“It’s a lot sexier than it used to be,” said Tom Duening, a panelist and El Pomar chair of business and entrepreneurship at UCCS. “Sports has become more than just traditional events — the top BMX bike rider or skateboarder is as popular as any football star.”

The city is home to a variety of sporting events — bike races, hockey and soccer tournaments, and annual sports festivals. The famed Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second-oldest race in America.

But there is room for other, more high-tech businesses, Duening said. Smartphone applications are one of them.

“There’s a lot of innovation going on in sports and wellness right now,” he said. “It’s driven, somewhat, by the aging of the Baby Boomers. They are technologically savvy, and they want to remain fit.”

Duening believes the Springs could be home to businesses that create new technology and ways to keep track of fitness levels and progress.

“There’s a younger generation of folks coming up who are inventing those apps,” he said. “There are pressures that we can benefit from, especially with the USOC here. We could easily become the center for state-of-the-art health management companies. That area is just exploding.”

But Colorado Springs still has some work to do before it can solidify its place in the sports and wellness Hall of Fame, says Mike Moran, senior media consultant for Colorado Springs Sports Corp., a nonprofit focused on bringing sporting events to the Springs.

“We lack facilities,” Moran said. “The ones we have just aren’t big enough. The World Arena seats 7,400 for hockey, and the NCAA wants double that for a tournament. The Air Force stadium sits 40,000, but it isn’t adaptable or always accessible. The Sky Sox can put 10,000 there, but that’s not really large enough either. It’s hard to recruit large sporting events here.”

Moran says there is opportunity — and the Springs is in a unique position to make the most of that opportunity. The 57 different sports organizations headquartered here could work together to sponsor a large project, he says.

“Given the right economic support, we could create the right kind of facility that the community could use at a reasonable cost — with the ability to have very large events here. Look at what Indianapolis did — they decided to become the amateur sports headquarters. They came together and got it done. With the right leadership, we can do that too.”

Moran believes the city has the right leadership in place — and that the sector will grow during the next few years. He says Mayor Steve Bach is the first city leader to fully recognize the sports economy as a potential economic driver.

“He’s really reaching out,” Moran said. “He’s doing it quietly, behind the scenes, and very aggressively as well. I think he’ll find the opportunities out there, and work to pull it all together.”

The city’s economic development leadership should think big, says Chris Carmichael, owner of Carmichael Training Systems, a local company that helps train athletes.

“I’d recommend a broad approach,” he said. “We shouldn’t focus on just events or just training. Keep in mind that we could include biotech research and development, sports medicine, fitness. We could take an approach that includes more service-oriented businesses, training people, helping them reach goals.”

Carmichael believes the economic sector can only continue to grow.

“Colorado Springs continues to be an attractive place for companies in fitness and in sports, for a lot of reasons,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential here — there’s definitely an underserved group of companies here. We need to aggressively, actively recruit companies in the sector — let people know what’s here.”

Sports-related assets

  • U.S. Olympic Committee
  • Olympic Training Center
  • 25 headquarters of national governing bodies
  • 12 indoor sporting facilities

Sports product development companies

  • Angletech Cycles
  • Koobi
  • Maxx Sunglasses
  • SRAM
  • SRM

Annual events

  • American Discovery Trail Marathon
  • Broadmoor Open, figure skating
  • Dave Schultz Memorial International, wrestling event
  • Pikes Peak Ascent, half-marathon
  • Pikes Peak Marathon
  • Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo
  • Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
  • President’s Day Hockey Tournament
  • Pride of the Rockies Classic, multi-state soccer tournament
  • Rocky Mountain State Games, Colorado’s largest sports festival
  • U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly, annual meeting for USOC
  • Warrior Games, sporting event for injured military members

(Source: Colo. Springs Regional Business Alliance)

CSBJ Sports Power Lunch

Time/date: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 22

Place: Colorado Springs Marriott, 5580 Tech Center Drive

Panelists: Mike Moran, Colorado Springs Sports Corp.; Chris Carmichael, Carmichael Training Systems; Cheryl McCullough, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau; Tom Duening, El Pomar chair of business and entrepreneurship, UCCS; Martin Wood, UCCS vice chancellor and chief operating officer.

Tickets: $27 for CSBJ subscribers, $37 for nonsubscribers; go to csbj.com/events.