Exceeded the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA) annual sales goals once again, finishing the fiscal year with 79 assisted definite bookings. Those 79 events are projected to create more than 125,000 hotel room-nights and generate more than $43.7 million in direct visitor spending in Wake County.
NCAA championships on the way
Confirmed "March Madness" is returning to Raleigh, N.C., and the Town of Cary will once again be the home of the NCAA College Cups (soccer) and the Baseball Division II World Series. Those were the highlights of the NCAA's April 2017 announcement on future championship host sites spanning academic years 2018-2019 through 2021-2022. North Carolina State University was awarded the Men's Basketball Championship First and Second Rounds in 2021, along with championships in gymnastics (two), golf and rifle. This will mark the fifth time since 2004 that PNC Arena has hosted "March Madness." The Town of Cary was awarded eight NCAA national championships—four Baseball Division II World Series and four College Cups (two men's, two women's).
A challenging year
Reflected on the challenges of the 2016-2017 year, which will be remembered for the cancellation of six major championship events in Greater Raleigh as a result of the NCAA and ACC's position on N.C.'s House Bill 2 (HB2) becoming law. The two governing bodies pulled and relocated the following events, all of which were scheduled to be hosted in Cary: NCAA Women's College Cup, NCAA Women's Lacrosse Final Four, NCAA Division II Baseball World Series, NCAA Division III Men's & Women's Tennis, ACC Women's Soccer and ACC Men's and Women's Tennis. In March 2017, state leaders repealed HB2, and soon thereafter, sports organizations, including the NCAA and ACC, announced they would return to N.C.
AAU Karate Nationals a major success
Welcomed the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Karate National Championships and International Cup, one of AAU's signature events, held at the Raleigh Convention Center (RCC), June 27-July 1, 2017. The week-long event was contested in 10 rings set up in the RCC's exhibit hall. The AAU and Raleigh welcomed 1,500 athletes, 400 coaches and officials, plus approximately 3,000 spectators for the event. Athletes ranged in age from five to 55+ and accounted for an estimated 4,000 room-nights while in town, generating $1.5 million in visitor spending.
Enhanced the GRSA calendar when the most popular sport in Australia came to Raleigh on June 24, 2017, as the U.S. Australian Football League held its Eastern Regional Tournament in the capital city. Men's and women's teams competed at North Carolina State University's Miller Fields, and the day culminated with a post-event party. This first-time event was a huge success, according to event organizers. Meanwhile, the National Club Baseball Association Division I World Series brought eight regional winners from across the U.S. to Ting Stadium in Holly Springs. Large crowds were on hand as East Carolina University claimed this year's championship, which is set to return to Holly Springs in 2018.
Key assisted bookings
Helped secure more events in 2017, of which these are a sampling, in addition to the events listed above: Big Rock East, U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region III National Cup, U.S. Figure Skating Adult Championships, All Star Cheer & Dance Challenge, Deep South Classic, National Black Heritage Swim Meet, IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh, Senior Softball-USA Eastern Nationals, Rock ‘n' Roll Raleigh Marathon and 1/2 Marathon, USTA Tennis on Campus Fall Invitational and 12 N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) state championships.
Major events hosted
Supported its local partners and helped host several key events throughout the year. Some of the highlights include: CASL visitRaleigh.com National Soccer Series, Rock ‘n' Roll Raleigh Marathon and 1/2 Marathon, IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh, Deep South Classic, MAPL Raleigh Volleyball, City of Oaks Volleyball Challenge, 12 NCHSAA state championships, Great American Cross Country Festival, National Club Baseball Division I World Series and a variety of events hosted at USA Baseball's National Training Complex.
Supported many area events this year, including the following: NC USSSA Fastpitch Eastern and Winter Nationals, Atlantic Tire Championships, adidas Cross Country Challenge, SAISA SailPack Women's Regatta, SAS Championship, Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional Championship, Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon, N.C. Youth Soccer Association Soccer Symposium, Grand Slam Triangle Softball Classic, USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championship, John Wall Family Foundation Holiday Invitational, Tobacco Road Marathon & Half Marathon, Carolina Grand Slam USA Beach Volleyball National Junior Tour Event, Shaw University Softball Challenge, ACC Wrestling Championship, East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championship, Butterfly Cary Cup Championships, U.S. Masters Dixie Zone Championships and more.
Represented Raleigh and Wake County at the following sports tradeshows: NASC Annual Symposium, TEAMS Conference and Expo, CONNECT Sports Marketplace, U.S. Olympic Committee SportsLink, S.P.O.R.T.S. Conference, U.S. Aquatic Sports Convention, AAU National Convention, USA Softball Annual Meeting, USA Track & Field Annual Meeting, National Fastpitch Coaches Association Convention, American Baseball Coaches Association Convention, National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention, U.S. Youth Soccer Annual Workshop, U.S. Lacrosse National Convention, Visit North Carolina 365 Conference, Simpleview Summit, ESPA Conference and Meetingmax Conference.
Winning, writing and wise
Picked up a couple awards this year. GRSA earned a Readers' Choice Award for overall excellence by SportsEvents Magazine. In addition, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing team earned a Telly Award for the "Greater Raleigh: A Premier Sports Destination" video.
Debuted a new content series this year, entitled Greater Raleigh Sports Spotlight. The Spotlight is a monthly feature by writer Neil Amato that GRSA publicizes across social media platforms. Subjects explored by Amato this year included disc golf, the Deep South Classic, IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh and a feature on William Peace Unversity softball coach Charlie Dobbins, among others.
GRSA associate director Tori Collins was named to the inaugural board of the newly-established Greater Raleigh chapter of WISE (Women in Sports & Events), and GRSA assistant director Jason Philbeck, CSEE, became chair of the N.C. Sports Association, which represents dozens of destinations statewide that are involved in the sports tourism industry.