Did you know one of Cumberland County’s largest tourism markets is Sports? Specifically, cheerleading, baseball, and basketball are the top three types of competitions or tournaments we're known for hosting. The Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (FACVB) Sports Sales Manager, Stephanie Decatur, estimates 75% of our sports leads come from those three. I recently sat down with Stephanie to discuss her role in selling this area as a sports destination, and she summed up why we’re such a good fit for these types of events. Simply put, “Cumberland County offers big-city amenities with small-town prices.”
Stephanie knows that fact is one of our greatest strengths when it comes to competing with bigger cities for bookings, and she makes it her mission to prove to organizers that our Facilities and Accommodations are significantly more affordable than much of our competition’s. Additionally, she recognizes the importance of relationship building, and she focuses on doing just that with not only her clients but our sports facility representatives and hoteliers. Stephanie just celebrated her third anniversary at the FACVB, but she also brings to our table a total of over 17 years of experience working in the hospitality sales industry.
In 2001, Stephanie took a job at the Sands Resorts as a reservations agent for seven oceanfront properties in Myrtle Beach. By the time she left that resort, seven years later, she was Director of Sales & Marketing. Over the following eight years, Stephanie gained even more experience working in such popular destinations as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Ultimately, her dream was to work for a Convention and Visitors Bureau, knowing she would enjoy the challenge of working with clients to ensure their event’s success, from start to finish.
Since Stephanie joined the FACVB team, she has made it her mission to grow the sports market here and to strengthen relationships with our facilities and accommodations. As I was talking with her about a few of her most successful and rewarding client experiences, she shared with me why Cumberland County’s “big-city amenities with small-town prices” have proven to attract (and keep) a range of Sports Events.
Sports organizers are always seeking affordable facilities to hold their events and affordable accommodations to host their teams and families. When selling the Fayetteville area to potential clients, Stephanie makes a point to brag on our Crown Complex, one of the most affordable East Coast venues for hosting sporting events. Additionally, the Crown’s five different facilities—all within walking distance of one another—make team travel and event coordination logistically easier. As an example, teams use the Crown Arena for warm-ups, Crown Coliseum for competitions, and Crown Theatre for awards ceremonies.
For those reasons, Rock Hood, Owner/CEO of Champions in Motion, moved his regional cheerleading competitions to Fayetteville in 2018. Twice a year now, teams and families travel from Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, and all over North Carolina to compete at the Crown Coliseum. Not only has Stephanie worked alongside the Crown’s staff to ensure these events go off without a hitch, but she has also played an integral role in securing affordable room rates at multiple host hotels.
Approximately 9,500 people attend and/or compete in these events, which are open to the public. At the last Champions in Motion competition, in May, there were an estimated 2,500 room nights. The Estimated Economic Impact, or EEI, on Cumberland County was $1.6 million—representing tourism dollars being spent on the local economy and, ultimately, tax savings for our residents.
Champions in Motion’s Director of Events, Dakota Hood, recently shared some feedback about their experience here: “We have been to other cities, but our relationship with the FACVB and Crown Coliseum has helped grow our competitions into an event bigger than ever before.” As of now, we can expect to host Champions in Motion through 2020, and Stephanie will be working alongside the Crown and our hotel partners to ensure this organization continues to choose Cumberland County for years to come.
Just as soon as the City of Fayetteville put plans in place to build Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville last year, they went after the Big South Conference to sell Segra as a potential host for the Big South Baseball Championship, an NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. The Houston Astros were bringing their new Class-A Advanced Affiliate, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, to Cumberland County, and their new stadium offered massive potential for attracting a range of sporting events.
Big South was impressed enough with everything Segra, the FACVB, and the city promised that they announced their decision last fall to hold the 2019-2021 championships here, months before stadium construction was even completed. Stephanie immediately got to work on securing nine host hotels for Big South’s employees, teams, and umpires. She also worked alongside other FACVB and city staff on ensuring Big South met the requirements for a Tourism Development Authority grant. Additionally, when the Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ staff was tasked with organizing practice sites for the teams, Stephanie was able to assist them in finding the ideal fields.
This past May, Big South’s ten competing teams descended on Fayetteville for their five-day tournament—all of which was televised on various ESPN channels. Post-event, the host hotels reported a total of 669 room nights, resulting in an EEI of $598,500. Not surprisingly, Big South’s Director of Broadcast Services and Development, Mark Bryant, shared in a follow-up email that Stephanie was “as instrumental as anyone in making the tournament work.” He went on to state, “She got our teams situated with hotels, she solved problems I brought to her attention, and she even solved problems before I knew they existed. Outstanding work, and hugely appreciated.”
As for Stephanie, she believes Big South has brought Fayetteville to the forefront even more as a premier sports destination and knows that tournament represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sporting events Segra has the potential to host over the coming years.
Sometimes Stephanie works with groups that may not have as big of an economic impact on the area, but they certainly leave an impact on the community in other ways. The Hoops & Dreams Showcase, a high school basketball tournament, is a great example of that type of event, and it represents the vision of its founder, Marva Lucas-Moore.
When Marva’s daughter was still attending a local high school, Marva started the Showcase to grant kids an opportunity to play in front of college recruiters and possibly be awarded scholarships to top-notch schools. Marva’s daughter had already been playing on national stages, in front of recruiters and coaches, and Marva recognized the fact big talent was coming out of not only Cumberland County schools, but other areas as well. Not all families can afford to send their kids on trips to showcases around the country, so Hoops & Dreams was Marva’s attempt at bringing those recruiters to Fayetteville’s front door.
Last year, teams from West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina all showed off their skills at Methodist University’s (MU) March F. Riddle Center. Not only did this event put the national spotlight on these players, but it also showed off everything MU has to offer in terms of its multipurpose arena, other campus facilities, and educational opportunities. College recruiters traveled to Fayetteville from around North Carolina and other states to watch these kids put all their talent on the floor, and approximately 2,000 people attended the three-day Showcase.
For this event, Stephanie helped secure Riddle Center and ensured our hotels offered the traveling teams family-friendly rates. Marva “loved the location at Methodist University” and had nothing but positive things to say about her experience working with Stephanie and the FACVB: “We really appreciate the support and love CVB has provided us from year one. CVB has helped us with finding hotels for our teams and family to stay while visiting Fayetteville. CVB staff stay in constant contact with us and support our event each year.”
Though Marva’s daughter is now a college freshman, attending and playing for NC State on a full-ride, Marva remains committed to Hoops & Dreams and its potential to give other talented kids the same opportunity as her daughter had. This November, the Showcase will be returning to MU for its third year, and Stephanie expects it to continue to grow, spotlight athletes, and impact the community.
These three clients represent the more popular Sports Events our sales team helps facilitate here; however, they also work with wrestling, gymnastics, skeet-shooting, and other niche groups. Not only does our team know our Facilities and Accommodations inside and out, but their strong relationships with staff prove to make all the difference in ensuring the success of these events.
Are you interested in bringing your sports tournament or event to Cumberland County? Here are "5 Reasons to Hold Your Tourney in Cumberland County." The FACVB also offers a great resource in the form of our digital Sports Guide, which provides comprehensive details on our many parks, recreation centers, fields, courts, and other sports facilities. Additionally, you can get a good picture of what these sites offer by watching the sports facilities videos featured on the FACVB’s YouTube Channel.
Finally, I would also encourage you to reach out to our Sports Sales Manager directly at (910) 835-5089. Our team is more than eager to take future clients on a site visit and to prove why we have “big-city amenities with small-town prices” in Cumberland County.