Mobile has received many nicknames over the centuries. One of the most well known is that of being “The Port City.”
Although Danny Corte sees nothing wrong with the label, he would like a new phrase to identify the region. He wants the world to know Mobile as “The Sport City.”
Corte is the executive director of the Mobile Sports Authority, a quasi-public non-profit organization funded by the county. His job, in a nutshell, is to attract as many traveling sports events as he can to the area.
Why is that such a big deal, you ask? Well, the MSA recently completed its fourth fiscal year of operations, and has submitted an economic impact study. From Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30 of this year, the MSA reported it attracted, hosted, co-managed or supported 38 events that brought in $54,930,790.
“The business of sports events has grown over the years,” said Corte, who has been involved with athletics for more than 20 years. “A few years ago, there were just a few sports authorities around. Now, even the small towns have them.”
The study was broken into two segments. There were 18 events at the Mobile Tennis Center that contributed $39,311,830 to the local economy. The two largest tournaments were the USTA Southern Combo Doubles ($7,360,470) and the NAIA Collegiate Championships ($3,931,875).
“The Mobile Tennis Center is a perfect example of a great facility,” Corte said. “It is one of the largest public facilities in the nation (with 60 courts). It really adds to the tournament atmosphere.”
The MSA Economic Impact Formula measures the number of visitors, times the number of nights stayed, times $270 per day to get a Direct Spending figure. That number is then doubled (a regional multiplier) to get the total economic impact for the area. The $270 figure was based on a 2005 study by the University of South Alabama on what visitors spend while in Mobile for tournaments.
The Mobile Area Tennis Association has a similar formula, but substitutes $265 per day in spending and uses a regional multiplier of 2.33. In either case, it is a lot of money.
“The job of the MSA is to get people to come here, to stay here and to eat in the restaurants,” Corte said. “Sports tourism can bring people to Mobile who might not have come here for any other reasons.
“This is one of the few parts of the tourism market that is growing. When young players come, they bring parents, grandparents and siblings. Youth sports are the Holy Grail of the industry. Anytime you can get an event for ages 6 to 18, you can do well.”
Of the 20 events not connected to the tennis center, the largest contributors were the 2013 Mobile Challenge of Champions track and field meet ($2,160,000), the USA Boxing Junior Olympic National Championships ($2,138.400), the ARCA Mobile 200 auto race ($1,944,000) and the Battleship Rugby Tournament ($1,007,640), an event I wrote about in my last column. Overall, the non-tennis events added $15,618,960 to the local economy.
The MSA often partners with city and county officials plus the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. These and other groups are always looking to bring something special to the region, sometimes not always sure of the impact it will have.
A perfect example is the Color Run that took place in downtown Mobile last month. Corte said he had never heard of the event, which has been gaining popularity across America over the last few years. The only rules are that participants wear white clothing and come ready to be covered in color at the finish.
“I really thought something like that would never work,” Corte said. “It was a 5-kilometer race that wasn’t timed, and they throw colored starch at you while you are running. And you know what? We had 3,500 people participate, with at least 1,000 runners from out of state.”
So whether it is a major youth soccer tournament or a roller derby regional competition, the MSA is working to put a good face on the community.
“If they like us, they may want to come back,” Corte said. “We work with the convention bureau, to market the area and show that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
“We can do outdoor events just about year round, but we need either new facilities or to get the ones we have upgraded. I really believe all these are coming. I see a big future for Mobile as a true sports designation.”
READY TO TIP THINGS OFF
As we enter November, most fans are still focused on football. However, let us not forget the college basketball season has started in Mobile.
The player grabbing the most attention has been University of South Alabama forward Augustine Rubit. The 6-foot-7 senior has been named to the Lou Henson Preseason All-America team and the College Sports Madness Preseason All-Mid Major squad.
Rubit is the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, after averaging 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds. He is the first cager to ever lead the SBC in rebounding three straight years, and goes into this season just 120 short of a league mark.
Matthew Graves is taking over as the Jaguars head coach. His other returning starters are 6-foot-6 junior forward Mychal Ammons and 6-foot-1 senior guard Antoine Allen.
• The Lady Jaguars have a new coach in Terry Fowler. USA is in a rebuilding mode, as four starters are gone from last season.
Seniors Meghan Dunn and Ronneka Robertson lead the veterans. Dunn is the top outside threat, having hit 45 three-pointers last season. Robertson has been named to the Sun Belt’s preseason all-conference club, after leading the team with 7.2 rebounds per game.
• Another new coach can be found down Old Shell Road, as Aaron Niven takes over the men’s program at Spring Hill College.
The top performers for the Badgers so far this season have been 6-7 senior forward Alex Looney (14 ppg), 6-6 junior forward Frederick Gatson (13.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and 6-1 senior guard Robert Gipson (11.5 ppg, 6 rpg).
• The Spring Hill women will have a familiar face on their bench, as Karen McConico returns for her third year at the helm.
The Lady Badgers have a veteran squad back. Leading the way are four-year starters Bria Bohanon and Tempey Hamilton at guard, plus Sha Sha Buchanan at forward. Another starter back is senior guard LaSheena Nation.
• The men’s team at the University of Mobile is considered one of the favorites in the Southern States Athletic Conference preseason poll. Head coach Joe Niland has several starters back this year. Key players are 6-4 senior guard Kwame Bearde (12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg last year), 6-6 senior forward Kevin Calloway (6.7 ppg. 4.1 rpg), 6-1 senior guard Chris Richardson (11.9 ppg, 2.0 apg), and 6-11 senior center Julien Sargent (6.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
• The fans will need a program to identify the Lady Rams, as head coach Billy Evans welcomes five freshmen and eight transfer to the team.
Back this year is senior guard Deonica McCormick, who earned all-conference honors by averaging 14.2 points per game and leading UM in blocks and steals. Another veteran is guard Molly Speed, a member of the SSAC’s all-freshman squad, who averaged 7.3 points per game.