By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — An effort to establish a sports tourism commission for the greater Oneonta area is continuing despite its failure, thus far, to obtain public funding.
“The whole idea is to draw out-of-market participants into the community to play in high-quality events and, obviously, to spend their money here,“ said Albert Colone, a driving force behind the initiative to create the commission.
The commission proposal is an outgrowth of a larger ad hoc group, the Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council – or GO-EDC – which came together in the autumn of 2011 in an attempt to act on members’ dissatisfaction about the direction in which Oneonta was going.
The members of the informal group, composed of community leaders and representatives from businesses, such as lodging, that would benefit from marketing outside the region, met Jan. 16 at the Boys and Girls Club in Oneonta.
Among those attending, according to minutes provided to The Daily Star by Colone were Common Council member Bob Brzozowski; Dennis Finn, chairman of the City Planning Commission; Tom Terry, co-owner of the Oneonta Stallions football team; Petrea Delberta, representing the Oneonta Boys and Girls Club; Robert Harlem, president of Oneonta Block; Mark Kleszczewski of KickStart Capital; Otsego County Rep. Linda Rowinski; Luisa Montanti, general manager of Southside Mall; Todd Heyn, sales director of the Courtyard by Marriott; Geoff Hassard, athletic director at the State University College at Oneonta; Richard Harlem of the Harlem & Jervis law firm, and Oneonta City Manager Michael Long.
Support for the commission was unanimous, the minutes indicate, and the attendees decided that the next step was to form a working group to fine tune the commission proposal so that it can be reintroduced to the Otsego County Board of Representatives “by May,” the minutes say.
The group sought $84,000 from the board last year, but was turned down in October.
Without that money and probably more, the group faces an uphill battle.
“I would just say that it really is a great idea,” said Deb Taylor, director of the Otsego County Tourism, under which the Oneonta group proposes that the sports commission operate.
“What we suggested is that the new sport commission have a volunteer-based committee of local leaders guiding them in their efforts, but that this whole organizational structure of the sport commission be linked to linked to Otsego County Tourism for a variety of reasons,” Colone said last week.
Taylor said, however, her agency would be hard-pressed to take on the job without additional funding.
“There needs to be product development, and there needs to be marketing,” she said. “It’s an investment, and it’s not one that’s going to pay off in one investment of $50,000 or $80,000. It requires probably three or four or five years of going to trade shows. It really requires a full-time person.”