York County sports advocates organize

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 8, 2013 

— York County should be marketed as a sports destination, the leader of a new sports tourism advocacy group in Rock Hill says, and existing facilities will support large athletic events.

Former Rock Hill City Councilman John Gettys, a local attorney, will lead the new sports commission, aiming to “make the case” for event organizers to bring tournaments and sporting events to the area.

The city of Rock Hill has scheduled a press conference Wednesday to announce the formation of the commission and its members.

The advocacy group is not intended to be a city or county-run commission, Gettys said Monday, and has not received taxpayer money. Instead, he said, the commission will give recommendations to local elected officials and help run tournaments and other athletic events.

The commission members are not elected or appointed by elected officials.

People have joined the group because they are passionate about sports, he said, and giving taxpayers the “most bang for their buck” out of existing city-owned venues such as Rock Hill’s Cherry Park, Manchester Meadows and the Giordana Velodrome.

York County Councilman Bump Roddey said Monday he hopes to bring his relationships with local business leaders to the sports commission to help privately pay for the group’s goals.

Roddey will serve on the commission as a “sports enthusiast and citizen,” he said, not as a County Council member.

The sports commission “will generate revenue for local businesses, York County and possibly other surrounding counties,” he said.

The group is “economically-driven,” Roddey said, and putting politics aside will result in “some real solid decision making.”

In 2011, Rock Hill saw $17  million in direct economic impact from sports tourism, said Steven Gibson, Rock Hill’s management and budget director. That figure includes what overnight guests spend at local restaurants, on gas for their cars and to stay in Rock Hill hotels.

The city also took in $4.5 million in hospitality taxes in 2011. That comes from a 2 percent sales tax at restaurants and bars and a 3 percent sales tax at hotels.

State law lets cities use a portion of that tax to run and maintain tourism-related facilities. Cities also can use sales tax dollars to build infrastructure such as roads or utility systems that support tourism-related facilities.

Retiring Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio will also serve on the commission, Gettys said, solidifying a partnership between local government and the college.

Winthrop’s facilities could host events such as a Big South Collegiate Conference basketball championship, Gettys said, and the commission would help show Big South organizers that Rock Hill is the ideal place to hold the championship games.

“This will raise the visibility of what we’ve got,” Gettys said. The commission’s goal “is to get everyone on the same page to recognize what a benefit this should be.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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