Sports ETA holds Annual Symposium in Portland, Oregon from April 22-25

 Posted on: April 30 2024

Contact: Jackie Reau, Game Day
(513) 708-5822 |

Sports ETA holds Annual Symposium in Portland, Oregon from April 22-25
Nearly 950 Sports Events and Tourism Leaders Convened for Annual Meeting

Last week in Portland, Oregon, Sports ETA, the only trade association for the sports events and tourism industry, hosted its largest event of the year at the Oregon Convention Center. Nearly 950 sports events and tourism industry leaders attended the Sports ETA Symposium, which offers dozens of continuing education programs and networking opportunities over four days.

“We thank the team from Portland for hosting our annual Symposium where we convene our sports events and tourism industry leadership,” said John David, President & CEO of Sports Events & Tourism Association. “We enjoyed a productive week of meetings and programs to discuss best practices, new trends, and business opportunities in a great American sports city.”

New State of the Industry Report Released

The highly anticipated State of the Industry Report for 2023 was released last week. The report underscores the strength of the sports tourism sector, showcasing a direct spending impact of $52.2 billion, which generated a total economic impact of $128 billion. This monumental contribution supported 757,600 full-time and part-time jobs and contributed $20.1 billion in taxes to various sectors of the economy.

“The sport tourism industry continued to grow in 2023, increasing by 7% over sports traveler volume in 2022,” said David. “The number of sports travelers in America established a new high-water mark of 204.9 million in 2023.”

New Board Members Elected

Clay Partain, STS, Executive Director, Sports Salt Lake was elected as Secretary/Treasurer for the Board of Directors. Additionally, four new board members were elected at the Sports ETA Symposium and included:

  • Bonny Bernat, STS, Senior Sports Development Director, Visit Winston-Salem

  • Becky Harsch, National Accounts Manager, Visit KC

  • Brian Persky, STS, Director of Business Development, Discover Kalamazoo Sports

  • Rachel Rogers, Vice President Sports Sales & Engagement, Cobb Travel &
    Tourism/Cobb Sports Alliance

Kansas City’s Kathy Nelson named 2024 Sports ETA Executive of the Year

Kathy Nelson, President and CEO of Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission, was honored by Sports ETA as the 2024 Sports ETA Executive of the Year. The 2024 Sports ETA Executive of the Year award is recognition of professional excellence, celebration of visionary leadership, unwavering dedication, and profound impact within the sports events and tourism industry and our association. Kathy is a nationally-recognized leader in the sports and tourism industries. As the CEO and President of the Kansas City Sports Commission and WIN for KC, where’s she’s led her team for over a decade, and as the CEO and President of Visit KC, Kathy works to promote Kansas City locally and nationally with the goal of attracting, retaining and facilitating sports events, conventions and organizations in the bi-state area.

2024 Sports ETA Member Awards, presented by Team Travel Source, Announced

Nine organizations and one individual were honored with the annual Sports ETA Member awards and they are:

Sports Commission of the Year

  • Austin Sports Commission – 500,000 and above

  • West Michigan Sports Commission – Below 500,000

Sports Tourism Organization of the Year

  • Visit Sacramento – 500,000 and above

  • Myrtle Beach Regional Sports Alliance – Below 500,000

Event Partnership of the Year

  • Albuquerque Sports Commission/USA Cycling – 500,000 and above

  • Rutherford County CVB/Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association – Below 500,000

Event or Program Impact of the Year

  • Kansas City Sports Commission – 500,000 and above

  • Visit Dothan – Below 500,000  

Rising Star
Nathan Caferro – Snohomish County Sports Commission

Superior Service

Gamechangers Consulting

Three new members inducted into the Sports ETA Hall of Fame, presented by Travel Oregon

We introduced the 2024 Sports ETA Hall of Fame class. Please congratulate: Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority; John Gibbons, former executive director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission, and Bill Hanson, co-founder of San Antonio Sports. The Sports ETA Hall of Fame is a lifetime achievement award recognizing long-standing and significant accomplishments in, and major contributions to, the industry trade association, Sports ETA, and the overall sports tourism industry. The Sports ETA Hall of Fame was launched in 2017, and there have been five induction classes with 18 honorees.

Sports Tourism Strategists Graduates Honored

Nearly 20 sports tourism professionals were honored at the Sports ETA Symposium for the completion of their STS certification program, which is the leading-edge education institute for the sports events and tourism industry offering topical content, in-depth and industry-leading certification programs.

The 2024 Sports Tourism Strategist Graduates are:

  • Morgan Baker, STS, Visit Corvallis

  • Danny Bonifas, STS, Richmond Region Tourism

  • Trent Brown, STS, Norman Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Alysha Carse, STS, Visit Plano

  • Evan Decker, STS, Visit Billings

  • Ce’Nedra Dillard, STS, Play Greenville NC

  • Alex Dry, STS, Visit Central Florida Sports

  • Emily Grissom, STS, Gainesville Sports Commission

  • Annie Goff, STS, Hilton Worldwide

  • Joel Koester, STS, Tulsa Sports Commission

  • Evangelina Medina, STS, Visit Bakersfield

  • Tuyen Nguyen-Valenzuela, STS, Riverside Sports Commission

  • George Page, STS, Compete-Valdosta-Lowndes

  • Jonathan Paris, STS, Myrtle Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Nick Pazzi, STS, Visit Tucson Sports

  • Mathew Ratner, STS, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Marquez Singleton, STS, Coastal Mississippi

  • Luke Zak, STS, Travel Salem

  • Eric Zartler, STS, Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau

Sports Facilities Summit a Success

The day-long Sports Facilities Summit, held on Monday, April 22, featured a number of round tables on operations, marketing/sponsorship and business development, along with a jam-packed day of all-access tours of The Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreation District's Howard M. Terpening Sport Complex, Ron Tonkin Field, and Gordon Faber Recreation Complex.

Sports Legacy Fund Raises $16,400 for SHE FLIES

The Sports Legacy Fund, the philanthropic arm of Sports ETA partnered with SHE FLIES whose mission is focused on engaging parents, and promoting the many benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle not only for younger girls, but as a lifelong pursuit to enhance anyone’s quality of life, regardless of age. Sports ETA and its members donated $16,400 to SHE FLIES.

Here’s to a week to remember

To all 950 2024 Symposium attendees, including our amazing hosts at Travel Portland and Sport Oregon, THANK YOU! Thank you for a incredible, record-breaking week. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Let’s do it again next year, April 14-17, 2025 in Tulsa, OK.


About Sports ETA:

As the only trade association for the sports events and tourism industry, Sports ETA is the most trusted resource for sports commissions, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and sports event owners. Sports ETA is committed to the success of more than 700 member organizations and 2,400 sports event professionals. We promise to deliver quality education, ample networking opportunities, and exceptional event management and marketing know-how to our members to protect the integrity of the sports events and tourism industry.  For more information, visit


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