May 31, 2023

Columbus Ranked Among Top U.S. Cities for Sports Business

Columbus’ rising prominence as a locale for sports events and sports business has been clear for some time to those paying attention. Now, it’s even less a secret, with a recent study by a leading industry trade publication that puts Columbus well within the top 50 U.S. cities for sports business.

Sports Business Journal’s look at qualitative and quantitative data involving 377 cities put Columbus just one spot out of the top 25, at number 26. Among cities without an NFL team, Columbus ranks third.

Cities studied were those with at least one major-league pro or Division I college team or a permanent sporting event of note. Biggest wasn’t necessarily best in the journal’s formula; the sports-business professionals surveyed said they valued markets that are small enough for their events to make a big splash, along with affordability, livability and friendliness — all areas where Columbus shines.

The rankings were published in March, so the survey was done before Columbus’ latest sports coup, when it was the only city to host first- and second-round NCAA basketball championship games for both men’s and women’s teams. Those events burnished Columbus’ sports-fan credentials with packed, enthusiastic houses. More tickets were sold to the men’s games in Columbus — nearly 59,000 over three contests — than in any other first- and second-round city.

“We’re very much a sports-minded community,” said Linda Logan, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. “We also sell a lot of tickets for concerts at the various venues. That’s how we roll here.”

The commission, headed by Logan since it was created in 2002, was named in the article about the survey as a key factor in Columbus’ high ranking. The judges’ brief comments on Columbus’ ranking noted that it “is home to one of the country’s most-respected sports commissions.”

Among the commission’s recently announced wins is that the 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships will unfold live at Nationwide Arena, January 22-28. With the next Winter Olympics coming two years after that, the championships in Columbus will be a chance for fans of the sport to see not only the current stars, but the up-and-comers who will be new Olympic stars in 2026. “Think about your future self: sitting on your couch, watching those young skaters in the next Olympics,” said Jesse Ghiorzi, marketing director for the commission. “This (the national championships) is where stars are made.”

Often, big sports-event wins follow success in hosting meetings of sports associations, Logan said. The Greater Columbus Convention Center hosted the governing council of U.S. Figure Skating twice before landing the 120-year-old national championship event.

Similarly, the Convention Center has hosted USA Volleyball’s Ohio Valley Region (OVR) organization many times and, with last month’s Girls 18 national championships, has seen more national championships than any building in the country.

OVR’s membership of close to 20,000 is primarily girls and women. It’s one reason for Columbus’ reputation as a great town for women’s sports in particular. One of the latest examples of that was the April announcement that the Fury, Columbus’ entrant in the new Pro Volleyball Federation league that begins play in 2024, will call Nationwide Arena home.

Finally, Columbus will break into the upper echelons of March Madness again in 2027, when Nationwide Arena is set to host the Women’s Final Four. Logan can’t wait. “One of the things that’s been exciting to see are the opportunities for women and girls,” she said. “We’re inspiring a lot of girls in Columbus to think big.”


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