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Sports tourism could benefit Gresham-area economy

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Drew Mahalic , chief executive officer of The Oregon Sports Authority tells leaders at The East Metro Economic Alliance about the benefits of sports  tourism. The head of the Oregon Sports Authority is urging East Multnomah County leaders to cash in on sports tourism by better utilizing and promoting local venues and events.

That was the message from Drew Mahalic, chief executive of the Oregon Sports Authority, at the monthly gathering of the East Metro Economic Alliance on Thursday, Jan. 14.

“Part of the reason why I’m here is to establish better relations ... to bring events to this area,” said Mahalic, at the event at Fairview City Hall.

Mahalic cited the Mt. Hood Community College aquatics center as one of the area’s biggest assets, calling it “a fantastic swimming facility.” Another plus for the area is the Blue Lake Disc Golf Course in Fairview, the site of the 2014 world championship games sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association.

Noting that cross-country running events have been successfully held at several venues in East Multnomah County, he said local leaders could attract more of those events.

Of the hidden economic benefits of sporting events, he told of some Japanese executives who had never heard of Oregon until they sponsored and attended the Davis Cup tennis event in the Portland area.

“They were so impressed, they built their U.S. headquarters here,” he said, “which lasted 10 to 20 years out in Hillsboro.”

Supported by more than 150 annual members, the nonprofit Oregon Sports Authority has served as the state’s sports-based economic development division for more than two decades. The authority boasts it has attracted more than $200 million in sports tourism dollars to Oregon through events such as the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Davis Cup and the U.S. Figure Skating Championships as well as its work toward attracting sporting events and franchises.

In 2010, the National Association of Sports Commissions recognized the authority as “Sports Commission of the Year.”

“We like to think of ourselves as the chamber of commerce for sports,” Mahalic said.

He is excited about the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships taking over the Oregon Convention Center in Portland March 11 and 12. The authority is working on a huge college basketball tournament set for November 2017 honoring Nike founder Phil Knight, which Mahalic promised “will be the greatest college basketball tournament ever.”

A former linebacker with the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles, Mahalic was a star player at the University of Notre Dame.

“These are just the beginnings of the potential we have out here (for sports tourism),” said Lynn Snodgrass, chief executive officer of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Sports Authority is a hidden treasure. We need to utilize them more.”

For more information, visit www.oregonsports.org.