GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Richard Beard looks around the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center with a smile of satisfaction on his face.
“These people are coming from all over the country, and they’re leaving their tax dollars here. So it’s a huge revenue generator for our community,” Beard said about some of the 18,000 athletes and 40,000 people overall that the AAU Junior Olympics have brought the Triad this week. And that’s just one of three major events in town along with the YMCA Long Course National Swimming Championships and the Wyndham Championship golf tournament (not to mention the Winston-Salem Open ATP tennis event later in the month).
Beard runs the Greensboro Sports Foundation which recruits these major events that not only add to the quality of life in the Triad but are one of the area’s biggest money makers for not just local businesses but the government, too.
“I’ve done a quick calculation just on the 27,000 room nights we have on the AAU Junior Olympics…when you calculate just the occupancy tax that they leave behind, that’s well over $200,000 just on this one event over a two-week period,” Beard said.
But in the next sentence, he’s selling you on how much more we can do.
“We have some great facilities that we built many years ago like Bryan Park Soccer Complex, Spencer Love Tennis Center that were showcase facilities when they were built, but we haven’t kept them up over the years,” Beard said. “We need to continue investing in the facilities that we already have and the low-hanging fruit that we already have. And then we need to think big on how can we establish more sports facilities…that will create this return on investment, attract these events but also benefit the community to be able to use the facilities when we don’t have these big events here.”
So even if you don’t own a business that benefits, and you’re not that moved by the way this income to the government lowers your taxes, maybe you are excited about the Learn to Swim program at the Aquatics Center that has the goal of teaching every Guilford County Schools student to swim by second grade. Or your son or daughter might play soccer and appreciate what they have for games and training at Bryan Park.
The biggest jewel of all is the Greensboro Coliseum which has under the watchful eye of Managing Director Matt Brown been able to stay modernized to the point of being a premier complex in the country that puts on an average of 1,100 events a year.
“We have a coliseum complex that is very, very flexible in what type of events we can attract here,” Beard said. “Everybody knows the Greensboro Coliseum is the basketball arena. But since we added the Greensboro Aquatics Center, and we have this special events center that’s very flexible, that affords us to bring these big events because we have so much space in one location.”
And when Greensboro branded itself as “Tournament Town,” they put action behind the words. When the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament goes somewhere like Brooklyn, it’s just another event in a huge city. In Greensboro, everyone seems to embrace being hosts in a way those larger cities don’t, and Richard Beard says people notice.
“They love Greensboro. They love how we put on these events. They love the fact that we have a community that volunteers for these events,” he said. “We have a very giving community and take pride in it, and that resonates with these events.”
And Beard insists that benefits everyone who lives in the region.
“Greensboro does not understand the impact of sports tourism in the community, and we need to do a better job of telling that story,” Beard said.
See more on this story in this edition of the Buckley Report.