Routon: Don’t forget sports as key to our future

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As most readers probably have figured out by now, our focus throughout this week’s issue will be the “Business of Sports” in Colorado Springs.

That doesn’t mean having a multitude of stories about every aspect of our local sports industry. In fact, sports always will be part of the Business Journal’s potential mix for any given edition — just last week, a front-page story looked at the Colorado Springs Sky Sox franchise entering a new season.

This time, as you’ll find, we simply are providing another mix of stories. There’s a localization of the trendy recent national story about possible unionization and salaries for major-college athletes, though we already have “paid” cadet-athletes at the Air Force Academy.

You’ll see a roundup of outdoor sports businesses in the region, and Colorado Springs adding another aspect to its Olympic identity by becoming a sister city Ancient Olympia, Greece.

We’re including “The List” with a look at the largest national sports associations, and the “Market Snapshot” showing the level of participation across Colorado in the most popular high school sports.

Perhaps more needs to be done in educating the local public on just how large and diverse our sports economy already is.

Even our online poll question this past week had a sports flavor. The question was this: “What kind of outside businesses should Colorado Springs focus most on attracting?” The choices, of course, ranged from manufacturing to health care and research. But another option touched on our theme — “Sports-related entities, businesses and organizations.”

It should be no surprise that manufacturing easily led the responses with nearly 50 percent. My hope was that the sports answer might come in a clear-cut second place, but instead it was in a virtual three-way tie for second along with “Health care and research, with our older population” and “None, focus on local small businesses and startups instead.”

Those results send several messages. One, despite increasing support for Colorado Springs branding itself as America’s Olympic City, that unofficial “campaign” still hasn’t reached a snowball effect. Two, more needs to be done in educating the local public on just how large and diverse our sports economy already is. And three, perhaps the Business Journal should play some kind of more aggressive role.

We already have our share of major yet unique sports events every year, such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the Rocky Mountain State Games, the Pikes Peak Marathon and more. We also continue to pull in the “one-stop” events of national and even international caliber, with cycling’s USA Pro Challenge returning to Colorado Springs this August for a stage race that should attract much interest.

And now, of course, we have the fast-developing plans for the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, attached to the City for Champions proposals but with the most early momentum of all the four projects. Having the green light from the U.S. Olympic Committee has helped the push toward what could be a centerpiece for Colorado Springs cementing its sports-dominant future.

From a business perspective, though, we still could benefit from one other ingredient. We need to build more on our sports economy. One element could be a media entity (think ESPN, which put Bristol, Conn., on the map), but more likely a multi-faceted company or industry that could make the Pikes Peak region part of its personality, as Nike has done in Oregon, for example.

It could start simply with a bigger commitment. Look at Ogden, Utah, a metro area of about 500,000 people just 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. It already was home to Weber State University, major offices of the U.S. Forest Service and the Internal Revenue Service, and a variety of manufacturing including Huggies diapers. Just in the past decade, Ogden decided to concentrate new efforts on recruiting sports and recreational companies, using a former Army depot as the hub.

Bottom line: In just 10 years, Ogden has created 11,000 new jobs with its emerging “sports cluster” of companies, many involved with skiing and cycling.

And wouldn’t you know, with the Business Journal now officially involved as a partner, the annual spring Regional Leaders Trip in early May is going to Salt Lake City. And that will include taking a closer look at both the Provo-Orem metro area to Salt Lake City’s south as well as Ogden to the north.

One can’t escape the conclusion that sports should have a top-level priority as we plan for Colorado Springs’ future economy. Perhaps the Regional Business Alliance could designate a future key hire as a sports executive, organizing and coordinating that effort, which should include the Colorado Springs Sports Corp.

We already have so much in place. We simply need to make a bigger commitment and go for it.

One Response to Routon: Don’t forget sports as key to our future

  1. Mr. Routon,
    There’s a big difference between the city branding itself and actually making a sensible set of plans. In the case of Ogden: please note that it had a core of strong public and private sector entities in place BEFORE it determined to diversify into sports and recreation. This is what the poll numbers that are quoted in the article here are telling you …
    Without some business-like planning, based upon an analysis of both best- and worst-case scenarios, the outcome as a City for Longshots looms.

    John Stevenson
    April 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm