While San Diego County already hosts major annual golf tournaments, world class surf competitions, youth soccer events and hugely popular marathons and triathlons, local officials want to focus on bringing even more sports events to the region.
Together with Mayor Todd Gloria, Holiday Bowl officials announced Thursday morning the formation of ‘Sports San Diego,’ a group that will be taking responsibility for marketing San Diego as a top sports destination in order to drive more sports-focused tourism to the area.
Sports San Diego, which San Diego Bowl Game Association (SDBGA) CEO Mark Neville called the Holiday Bowl’s “cousin,” will operate under the nonprofit SDBGA and be supported by the San Diego Tourism Authority and Tourism Marketing District.
“We will be the lead entity in driving sports tourism to San Diego,” Neville told a group outside Coasterra restaurant on Harbor Island under bright, sunny skies Thursday morning. Those gathered included San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, a large contingent of San Diego Bowl Game Association volunteers and officials from the San Diego Tourism Authority.
According to Tourism Economics, nearly 180 million people traveled to a sports event in the United States as either a participant or spectator in 2019, which resulted in an economic impact of $45.1 billion.
Tourism is one of the strongest economic sectors in the region, San Diego Tourism Authority COO Kerri Kapich said, noting the sector creates an estimated $19 billion in annual economic benefits and employs 1 in 8 San Diegans.
Kapich said sports are critical to San Diego’s economy and that sporting events are a cornerstone of what San Diego offers. Then she turned toward the sunny downtown San Diego skyline across San Diego Bay behind her and remarked, “I mean, who doesn’t want to play here?”
Kapich counted off myriad events that San Diego has hosted in recent years, including the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the AMGEN (bicycling) Tour of California, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the CONCACAF (soccer) Gold Cup.
“Through Covid and all the challenges that we’ve faced, the economic sector has been badly devastated, and we are trying to recover and build going forward,” Kapich said. “We know that we can host major sporting events safely, we just had over this past year the U.S. Open, which was a fantastic event at Torrey Pines, we also had the Breeder’s Cup in Del Mar and we just had the Farmers Insurance Open. Those are amazing events that broadcast San Diego around the world and we want to do more of that.”
Kapich said the strong partnership will help bring community benefits. “And with Sports San Diego we see this as a fresh opportunity to turn the page and do a lot of new and wonderful and great things for San Diego.”
Gloria said boosting San Diego as a destination for premier sporting events “is really important stuff.”
“Sports has been in our DNA for quite some time, it is the pillar of tourism economy dating back to 1960s with the creation of Jack Murphy Stadium and our soon-to-be replaced Sports Arena in the Midway community,” Gloria said. “We are a city that knows how to host major sporting events. We love showing off our great big, beautiful city.”
The mayor said when people in colder climates catch a beautiful sunset at Torrey Pines, they say, “What’s going on in San Diego? I want to go there.”
Gloria reminded the crowd that when people visit San Diego and spend their dollars, it is a win-win for everyone.
“That is money that goes directly to our city’s general fund to fix our roads, house our homeless and keep our neighborhoods safe,” he said.
He cited coming sporting events, including March Madness basketball games at Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University, the Transplant Games of America and next year’s World Lacrosse Championships.
“Watch this space… for other major announcements coming soon,” Gloria said. “We’re a city on the move.”
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria (front) and Mark Neville (in red jacket), CEO of the San Diego Bowl Game Association, listen to Kerri Kapich of the San Diego Tourism Authority. Photo by Karen Pearlman.