State $ for sports tourism? We're skeptical

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 8 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:47 am in
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Gazette Editorial Board

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A group called the Des Moines Partnership is pitching an idea for a statewide sports tourism and marketing fund.

They say it could attract and support more teams and events, especially professional level, on a regional or national scale. And it’s likely they’ll ask Iowa lawmakers to consider creating such a fund, perhaps similar to the Vision Iowa Program that has supported qualified community projects around the state.

We’re skeptical.

As we look around Iowa, we see a healthy sports industry and culture in virtually every corner of the state. University and college teams are popular and play in great facilities. Iowa has five professional minor league baseball teams, the most of any small-population state. There’s an NBA Development League team in Des Moines. Minor league hockey and football in several cities. Hundreds of high school and youth league teams.

About the only thing we’re not home to is a top-tier major league professional team in one of the nation’s most popular sports, although you could argue that the Iowa Speedway in Newton qualifies. And most Iowans are within an easy drive of one or more permanent big-time venues.

The state already has a $500,000 fund overseen by the Iowa Economic Development Authority that helps promote non-professional sports events, including the NCAA Division I wrestling championships, among others.

Sports seems to be doing fine in Iowa, thank you. And while we’re not against thinking big, we question whether the potential economic impact of attracting, say, more professional golf tournaments is significant enough to justify a taxpayer-funded marketing fund of tens of millions of dollars.

Unless there’s compelling data out there, we think it’s better to stick with the approach that brought the speedway and national competition to Newton.

Evaluate projects individually and critically, and decide if the benefits would be a good return on investment for Iowa taxpayers.

l Comments: editorial@thegazette.com or (319) 398-8262

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