Jax Sports pursuing national sporting events, Olympic trials

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Sports Council has 41 requests for bids on its desk to host various sporting events and if Chief Operating Officer Alan Verlander has anything to do with it, the city will land it's share.

"This community can bring a lot to the table," said Verlander.

The Jacksonville Sports Council was formed 6 months ago to head up the city's efforts to bring more sports events to town. The group known as JAX Sports is already seeing dividends as organizations know who to go to.

"We have made major strides in 6 months, the relationships that we are building. Sports is such a relationship business, they have to trust you. They are bringing a big event to your city, they have to know you can run that event the right way," said Verlander.

Jax Sports is looking closely at bidding for sports events like USA fencing, cycling, weightlifting and table tennis. Cheerleading events also.

"They range in everything from youth national championships, to the overall national championship, to Olympic trials and everything in between. We are looking at all those that make sense for our community. Certainly Olympic trials would be awesome to have no matter what sport you are, because that is the next set thing before going to Rio in 2016," Verlander said.

Verlander is very confident the city will land several such events and he says it is more than just sports -- it brings jobs. Sports related employment is up 12 percent in the USA in the last four years.

"You employ more people, sometimes it can be part time people, but sometimes full time jobs, so we want to make sure we are part of building the community from the economic side."

Jacksonville cab driver Kenneth Cook was happy to hear things are in the works to bring sports events and more visitors to the city.

"That will be wonderful to us, because that will bring more money," said Cook. "It will be better for the economy here too, sometimes we struggle through the year. It would be a big boost to us and the hotels and restaurants"

Right now the city has booked the 2015 men's NCAA tournament second and third rounds, as well as the 2016 SEC women's basketball tournament. Verlander says they will pursue neutral site college football games as well as the Senior Bowl.

"I am confident we can land these events because of our facilities and what we bring to the table. We just have to go sell it. And for the first time in a while, everyone in this city is working together for the same goal. The city officials, the Chamber, the Jaguars, The Players, Visit Jacksonville, SMG. You can feel the vibe, the energy, Everyone is pulling together as a team."


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