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March 1, 2018
By Rob Swenson, for SiouxFalls.Business
The Sioux Falls Sports Authority will be hosting or assisting with several major sporting events during March, its busiest month of the year. Longer term, however, the organization wants more to do.
“We are growing along with the city. We’re trying to keep up with the opportunities that are available,” said Bryan Miller, executive director of the Sports Authority.
The Summit League Basketball Tournament, the enduring star of the Sports Authority’s resume, tips off its 10th year in Sioux Falls on March 3. The Division I college tournament, which includes competition for men’s and women’s conference championships, runs through March 6 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The attractions include title-contending teams from SDSU and USD.
The start of the Summit League Tournament marks the beginning of a crowded month of events for the Sports Authority. The organization will be helping with three other events during a three-week span:
Although not a Sports Authority event, the NSIC/Sanford Health Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, which were Feb. 24-27 at the Pentagon, also enhanced Sioux Falls’ standing as a sports hub. The tournaments determined college champions in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, a league that includes Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls.
The Sports Authority also will host or assist with two big events in September: The 2018 Sioux Falls Marathon on Sept. 8-9 and the Sanford International Presented by Cambria, a PGA Tour Champions golf tournament Sept. 17-23 at the Minnehaha Country Club.
The marathon will include an expo at the Premier Center as well as a full marathon, half-marathon, 10K run and 5K run. It’s a Sports Authority event with international reach and significant growth potential, Miller said. Last year, more than 3,000 runners participated.
The PGA Tour Champions tournament, formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour, is expected to become an annual event. Such tour events feature big-name golfers older than 50.
The PGA tournament will be preceded by the Sioux Falls GreatLife Challenge, a Symetra Tour event that will be Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at the Willow Run Golf Course. The GreatLife Challenge is a professional qualifying tournament for women golfers who are trying to make the LPGA Tour. Although not a Sports Authority event, it’s another indicator of the city’s growing niche in the national sports landscape.
Miller said the authority will continue to pursue opportunities to host more basketball tournaments as well as explore event-hosting possibilities in sports such as college wrestling and hockey. Authority staff members also are talking to Sanford Sports about holding a tennis event in the city.
Teri Schmidt, executive director of the Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Sports Authority has done positive work for the community.
“They’ve definitely had an impact on the Sioux Falls sports scene,” Schmidt said. Financial backing and the ability to function as an organizing committee has helped it attract events such as the Summit League Tournament.
“Events like the Summit League are a positive for the community for those of us who live here as well as those wanting to visit to Sioux Falls,” she said. “The tourney has been very successful because of strong fan base and community backing.”
The Sports Authority is an independent commission structured as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It is funded by event revenue and corporate sponsorships.
Miller became executive director in January 2016. He is assisted by two colleagues – project director Tim Evans and project assistant Elizabeth Gotham. Their offices are on the third floor of the Commerce Center in downtown Sioux Falls.
At the top of the authority’s wish list for future events is the “Big Dance” — hosting a first-round tournament in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. However, that can’t happen until after 2022 because the regional tournaments are booked until then in other cities.
The authority previously applied unsuccessfully to host a first-rounder, and it plans to apply with the NCAA again in 2019 or 2020 when proposals are sought for future tournaments. The development of new hotels, such as the Holiday Inn & Suites near the Premier Center, might strengthen the city’s bid for becoming a host city for an opening-round tournament.
“We’re not going to rest until we get a men’s round one basketball game here,” said Kevin Lampe, who chairs the Sports Authority board of directors. “We’ve got their attention. They (NCAA officials) know we know how to run a great tournament.”
Lampe has chaired the Sports Authority board since its formation in 2006. The authority “has achieved a lot” in the past decade but probably is about where its founders expected it to be, he said.
Lampe is also the executive vice president of Sanford Sports, which is among the organizations in the community that the Sports Authority works with to attract and host events. Sanford Sports has 480 acres in northwest Sioux Falls that is used for sports-related activities or earmarked for development.
The addition of the Pentagon has helped the authority bring events to town, and the success of the authority has helped the Pentagon attract events, Lampe said. A national cross-country championship is among the events the Sanford Sports Complex would like to attract, he said.
The creation of the Sports Authority spun out of unsuccessful community attempts to attract the Minnesota Vikings football training camp to Sioux Falls. Landing the Summit League Tournament in 2009 was the organization’s first big success and remains a signature event for the authority.
The Summit League Tournament is booked in Sioux Falls through 2022, and the authority wants to keep it longer. Meanwhile, in coming weeks, other basketball tournaments in Sioux Falls will crown three national basketball champions.
“Things are looking up for the community and, at the same time, for the Sioux Falls Sports Authority,” Miller said.
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As the Summit League Basketball Tournament marks 10 years in Sioux Falls, here’s what’s next on the Sports Authority’s agenda.
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