In Our View: High on Sports

New commission will promote events and boost local economy

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Now that Vancouver’s romance with minor league baseball has been snuffed out (the romance still burns in Milwaukie, Ore. — more on that later), one might assume that the local sports spirit has gone into hibernation. To the contrary, the momentum for marketing local sports events is stronger than ever. The nonprofit Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office has created a Sports Commission, which will coordinate established local expertise and launch a vigorous marketing outreach at trade shows, in sports publications and elsewhere.

The intended result — and there’s ample reason to believe the goal can be met — is one that should appeal to every local resident: a boost to the local economy. Regardless how you feel about sports, helping local businesses is a worthy cause, especially when (unlike the abandoned minor league baseball effort) it comes at no increase in local taxes.

The Sports Commission was created as part of the Tourism Office’s numerous programs, which are funded by a $2 tax on each occupied room at local hotels with 40 or more rooms. The commission will build upon significant but heretofore independent local events, many of which have impressive track records. For example, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has staged its Cross Country National Championships here since 2009. And last June, the first Vancouver USA Marathon drew about 3,000 runners for the marathon and half-marathon divisions.

Other events have included the Little League Girls Softball Western Regional Tournament, the Washington State Horse Expo, the Adidas Clash at the Border soccer tournament and the U.S. Rowing Northwest Junior District Championships. As Kim Bennett, president and CEO of the Tourism Office, said in a recent Columbian story, “Our numerous sports facilities, parks and natural venues are becoming well-known among event organizers through the Northwest as well as the entire U.S.”

These types of events require massive amounts of local expertise and volunteer work. Now, those efforts will be bolstered by the Sports Commission, and we look forward to many more new local sports events of regional and national prominence. As the Sports Commission takes shape, an advisory group of 20 to 30 local experts will be formed with four goals in mind: Coordinate planning resources in the community; find sports events that fit the resources available here; educate the community about the economic benefit of such events; and boost the popularity of sports in ways that improve the local quality of life.

As for the Milwaukie’s romance with minor league baseball, it’s still glowing brightly. A recent story in The Oregonian described how the Milwaukie City Council is moving forward with a $300,000 commitment made last October. A citizen task force is being formed, economic benefits of minor league baseball are being defined and further study of a $20 million to $25 million baseball stadium is under way. As in Vancouver, it’s a controversial project, and local resistance there is being felt. But pro-stadium residents continue to prod the effort, and stadium designs and possible sites are being examined.

Of course, that won’t happen here after Clark County commissioners dropped the stadium idea late last year. But the marketing and promotion of other sports events has new hope with the formation of the Sports Commission.