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Maryland Sports Aims To Increase State-Hosted Events

October 17, 2016
According to its website, the mission for Maryland Sports is to "enhance Maryland's economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events."

For Terry Hasseltine, the agency's executive director, that means casting a wide net.

While Hasseltine worked hard to bring the 2014 and 2016 Army-Navy games to M&T Bank Stadium and the 2011 game to Landover, Md.'s FedEx Field, and just finished working with Johns Hopkins University and Towson University to submit what he called "a robust series of bids" for the 2019-2022 NCAA women's lacrosse championships, he's also excited about an event happening at Fruitland Recreation Park Nov. 19-20: The US Quidditch Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.

"I will be there," Hasseltine said. "It's a pretty unique opportunity; it sounds pretty cool."

With 150 teams and more than 2,500 participants (on a quidditch roster, as everyone surely knows, there are about 18-22 players), Hasseltine said the Harry Potter-inspired event will be great for Wicomico County's tourism industry.

At the other end of Maryland, Fair Hill will play host to a three-day equestrian event in the middle of October that will include a craft beer festival and outdoor expo.

In addition, while Hasseltine couldn't reveal any details, he said Maryland Sports is working with Fair Hill to bring a "very significant international event" to the Cecil County facility in 2018 and beyond.

"We do a pretty good business with traditional sports … lacrosse, basketball," Hasseltine said. "But we are also trying to think outside the box."

That includes working with the Glen Burnie, Md.-based United States Youth Cricket Association to bring cricket events to Maryland and supporting Ocean City, Md.'s bid for the 2018 (and beyond) U.S. Ultimate Beach Championships.

It also includes working with national organizations of all levels to bring more mainstream participatory sports events to the state.

Hasseltine mentioned the United States Specialty Sports Association's youth softball tournaments that bring hundreds of teams and thousands of players and parents to Wicomico County every summer and the Governor's Challenge high school basketball tournament, also in Wicomico, which last year had more than 100 teams.

"The lower Eastern Shore is a very desirable location," he said. "The facilities are great; the beach is within 25 minutes."

Hasseltine also pointed to October's Ironman Maryland race in Dorchester County and November's Across the Bay 10K as events Maryland Sports assisted with.

Having said all of that, don't get the idea Maryland Sports is forgetting about the "big splash" events.

After this year's game at M&T Bank Stadium Dec. 10, the 2017 Army-Navy game is set for its new semi-permanent home, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home of the Eagles. The bid process for the game from 2018-2025 is in its beginning phase, and Hasseltine said they are "assessing whether we want to do that." 

Maryland Sports is in conversations with the Ravens, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the city of Baltimore about whether it makes sense to bid for Army-Navy again. The game has been played in 10 cities since the rivalry began in 1890, with Philly hosting 86 times, the New York metropolitan area hosting 15 and Maryland nine (five in Baltimore, three in Annapolis, Md. and one in Landover).

"It's a very prestigious event," Hasseltine said. "It has a lot of 'profile.' But there are financial challenges. It's not cheap to put on an event of that magnitude. When you are sitting with a 71,000-seat stadium, but you have to account for [the entourages] from both schools, that takes you down to about 59,000 seats. 

"That's part of what's going on right now -- the conversation, assessment and evaluation. At the same time, we're preparing to host the event."

Hasseltine also said Maryland Sports just finished working with the University of Maryland on bids to host the 2020 and 2021 NCAA field hockey championships and the 2020 and 2022 NCAA women's basketball regional tournament.

"It's been a pretty solid rotation that the Xfinity Center has been a site [for the women's basketball tournament]," he said. "But it's still a competitive thing with the NCAA. We have to show our desire and ability to host."

Maryland Sports is more involved on the "front end" of the NCAA bid process than it has been in the past because the office is more established, Hasseltine said. 

"Our reputation and credibility has grown," he said. "Our office is only seven years old. We were just getting established when the previous bid cycles were going on."

When we spoke, Hasseltine also said he was just back in the office after attending a conference where he conducted more than 100 interviews with event organizers from across the country.

The competition to play host to sporting events is keen, he said.

"We are competing against every city and every county that has ball fields, linear fields, gyms," he said. "There are lots of events out there that bring great visitor spending to wherever they land."

And while Maryland Sports has what Hasseltine called "a well-recognized brand" outside of the state, he is also working to make sure there is awareness of his efforts on the home front.

"Our job is to bring out-of-state events here," he said. "But we need local partners."

To that end, he said Maryland Sports is engaging in "subtle" marketing strategies with The Baltimore Sun, radio stations and online outlets (including PressBox). 

"We want to make sure we are recognized in the state," Hasseltine said.

And that means huge events like Army-Navy to niche events like the quidditch championships.

Issue 226: October 2016