Swinging for the fences to bring high-profile sporting events to OKC
Oklahomans have always been sports fans. From NCAA championships to pro sports, from figure skating to rodeo, Oklahomans have always been sports fans.
For more than 60 years, the Oklahoma City All Sports Association, originally created to support and maintain the All-College Classic Basketball Tournament, helped to bring more than 250 events to Oklahoma City. Working hand-in-hand with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the city of Oklahoma City, the OKC Dodgers and various sports management groups, 30-plus NCAA championships since 1983, the Women’s College World Series in the newly renovated ASA Stadium, and NCAA wrestling championships are just a few of the major events that have been held here.
But now that the All Sports Association is gone, who will fill that void, bringing major college sporting events to OKC along with the buckets of positive publicity, visitors from out-of-town and the accompanying positive impact on the local economy?
The Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau is working to ensure that OKC continues to host high-profile sporting events and have hired the Arizona-based Huddle Up Group to evaluate how the city will move forward with recruiting future events. The group will visit the city this month, with a report expected in early summer.
“The great thing about these guys is they do this type of work all over the country,” said Mike Carrier, CVB president. “We don’t know what national trends are out there. These guys can help us put together pieces of best practices.”
“Our ability to attract events depends on our venues and host partners,” he continued. “It also requires a strong base of energetic sports fans and a dedicated marketing team to keep Oklahoma City top-of-mind with event owners and maintain relationships with key decision-makers.”
Carrier is confident there will be no drop-off in the number of events here.
“We have a great relationship with the NCAA, the Big 12 and many other sports organizations,” he said. “I don’t foresee any difficulty in submitting bids for events. We can carry right on with that,”
Oklahoma City is one of only three cities who are permanent hosts of major NCAA events. The others are Omaha, Neb. (Men’s College World Series) and Eugene, Ore. (Track & Field), with the Women’s College World Series quite possibly being the highest profile of those championship events. Hosting the event, and others like it, is a boost to the local economy and provides invaluable positive exposure for OKC, even when one of the local universities isn’t in the field.
“Teams and fans flood local hotels, restaurants and shops during each tournament and their direct economic impact is more than $15 million,” said Carrier. “The local economic impact for all of the sports events held in OKC over the past couple of years is estimated at more than $55 million.”
During the Women’s College World Series, every game is broadcast on ESPN and, as a result, Oklahoma City is mentioned multiple times during each game.
According to Carrier, “You can’t buy that kind of positive exposure.”
Other sports events that have been recently held in OKC include rowing championships, whitewater/rafting national competitions, softball youth showcase championships, men’s slow pitch softball championships, fast pitch soft ball championships, college tennis championships, national softball umpire clinics, NAIA cheer and dance national championships, college wrestling championships, 3v3 regional soccer championship, and Big 12 women’s basketball championships.
Chesapeake Energy Arena will host the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship starting Friday, March 8, running through Monday, March 11. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.
The tournament, which has been held in Oklahoma City for the last four years and five of the last six, will move to Kansas City next year.
Single-session tickets are $12, $20 or $25 before fees.
All active-duty military, veterans and teachers with a valid military or school ID can purchase $5 general admission tickets at the arena box office.
There will be several theme nights during the tournament — International Women's Day on March 8, Education Day and 90s Night for March 9's two sessions and Native American Heritage Recognition on March 10.
Tickets are available at Big12sports.com/BuyTickets and at the arena box office.
“We will continue to see these types of events in OKC,” Carrier said. “We have the facilities and we have the fans. It’s a natural fit, because Oklahomans are sports fans.”