Adam Bittner: Super Bowl or not, Pittsburgh sports commission a good idea
March 17, 2017 9:00 AM
A sports commission could help Pittsburgh attract more big sports events, like the Penguins' Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers last month.
By Adam Bittner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As we’ve seen in just the last month or so, Pittsburgh is a great host for big sports events. The Penguins’ Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers brought out a huge crowd, and the recently concluded Atlantic 10 tournament got a nice turnout at PPG Paints Arena.
Establishing a sports commission would be a good way to make sure even more big events give the city a look moving forward.
VisitPittsburgh is touting the ability to lure a Super Bowl in its renewed push to establish such a commission. That may or may not be a pipe dream for reasons the Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise outlined a couple weeks ago, from a lack of hotel rooms to miserable winter weather. (It’s mid-March here, right?)
But here are some more practical examples of why it’s a good idea for Pittsburgh to have an entity solely dedicated to attracting more big-time events.
• Philadelphia is holding this year’s NFL draft.
• Detroit is staging this year’s Big Ten men’s ice hockey tournament.
• Minneapolis is welcoming Super Bowl LII early next year.
• Cleveland is holding the 2018 NCAA wrestling championships.
All of these are cities many Pittsburghers consider peers playing host to events many Pittsburghers would probably love to attend. And all four of them have sports commissions, complete with websitesfull of resources for sports entities looking for places to host their events.
The closest thing Pittsburgh has to such commissions is the Sports & Exhibition Authority, a board tailored more to maintaining the city’s sports facilities. Otherwise, there is no single entity tasked with drawing big sports events.
That should change, especially because Pittsburgh has a lot of potential as a city that sits uniquely at the intersection of fan bases from three major conferences. The ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, represented by Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia, respectively, could all stage events here and reasonably expect to do pretty well from an attendance standpoint.
Pittsburgh should have a group dedicated to making that case to them, as well as the various other event planners who might be looking for destinations. Sure, there will be other voices — from the local teams to business leaders — in the room trying to make things like an NHL All-Star game or NCAA tournament regional happen here. And yes, the city’s reputation as a great sports city speaks for itself in a lot of ways.
That said, cities like those named above have good cases to make, too, and Pittsburgh can compete with them more directly by consolidating that responsibility into what would be a small agency — VisitPittsburgh is seeking $6 million a year in support through a hike in the county hotel tax, according to the Post-Gazette’s Mark Belko.
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