By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
HOSTING THE BIG 12: The Big 12 baseball tournament was held in Tulsa last spring through the work of the Tulsa Sports Commission and the support of the Tulsa Drillers. At left is Tulsa Drillers General Manager Mike Melaga with Tulsa Sports Commission Executive Director Vince Trinidad. The tournament was an economic plus for Tulsa.
GTR Newspapers photos
A million here and a million there, the Tulsa Sports Commission has provided a $300 million impact for the local economy. With that kind of monetary muscle, Tulsa is transforming into one of America’s premier amateur athletics hubs, and the is pulling the strings behind the curtain.
“We create lasting partnerships,’’ says Executive Director Vince Trinidad. “We don’t want to get gussied up for the dance and dance only once. We want to dance with you many times. Vince Lombardi says it best, ‘Winning is not a one-time thing, it’s an all-time thing.’ “
Trinidad should know his sports clichés well after a successful career in promotion throughout the United States. He served eight years in Tucson, Arizona, and seven in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ramrodding local sports commissions. He helped logistically coordinate a 13,000 athlete, multi-sport event in Portland, Oregon. With such a wealth of experience, Trinidad was hired to develop Tulsa’s athletic footprint around the country.
“Sports is a business and so is tourism,’’ says Trinidad, who helped host and recruit more than 30 events in 2015. “It takes enthusiasm and being passionate about what you do and the people, and partnerships are key.’’
Formed in 1993, the Tulsa Sports Commission serves under the umbrella of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Regional Tourism and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Trinidad says it came about when local businessmen wanted to attract a March basketball tournament to Tulsa and they secured the Conference event.
The crown jewel for the is the Grand National Championships that occupy the River Spirit Expo Center every November. Athletes and fans flock to Tulsa from 13 countries. More than 3,000 riders and 7,000 spectators helped produce over $70 million for the local economy in 2015, and Tulsa’s marriage with is only growing stronger.
The passage of Vision Tulsa provides funds for building the organization’s national headquarters and track at Expo Square. Completion is set for 2018, and Trinidad says he hopes to land the 2020 Olympic Trials in Tulsa. is already looking ahead at events eight years in the future.
“The majority of our dollars go toward marketing Tulsa as a sporting destination,’’ Trinidad says. “Our success revolves around maintaining a positive image with organizations at multiple levels, and we have high goals for ourselves. moving here gives Tulsa the opportunity to host the Olympic Trials.’’
The began as and remains a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to amateur sports. Much of the group’s funding is raised through a lodging tax from hotels and motels. Trinidad says the commission has four primary functions: recruiting, retaining, enhancing and developing all aspects of amateur athletics for metro Tulsa.
“We have a team to go find sporting events that have a good fit with our facilities and work well with our local sports organizations,’’ says Trinidad. “Curling doesn’t fit. We can do curling, but there is no curling population in Tulsa. We pursue sports that fit well with the community.’’
With the TSC’s input, the University of Tulsa will play host to first and second round men’s basketball tournament games March 17 and 19 at the Center. The commission also has helped attract golf and tennis tourneys, the Bassmaster Classic, Big 12 baseball, and national youth soccer and wrestling tournaments.
“One of the biggest events we did was the youth soccer national championships last summer,’’ Trinidad says. “There were 96 of the best youth teams in the country here. We also had the Wrestling Junior Nationals at the Cox Center. We look to facility owners that can host championships and we put together a bid. We have to outbid other cities for events and in some cases we might go head-to-head with Dallas or Kansas City.’’
Trinidad says the youth soccer tournament had a $2 million impact on Tulsa, and the tennis tournament brought in $5 million.
“We take a look at the economic impact to decide if we will host an event or not,’’ Trinidad says. “The great thing about tourism is that it’s new money coming into the community. That’s dollars for restaurants, hotels and attractions.
“It’s my job to oversee the daily operation of the commission and provide resources for our team to be successful. I am an advocate for tourism and sports regionally, nationally and internationally. Next March we’re hosting the Big 12 Wrestling Championships.’’
In addition to major events, the also works with almost any amateur sport that needs assistance. Union’s youth football league is part of that package along with girl’s junior golf, and Rogers State. A 16-member board of directors provides strategic leadership and ideas.
“All of our sports are foundational,’’ says Trinidad. “They become your foundation and maybe allow opportunities for other sports. Our mission is to retain an event. There is nothing wrong with professional sports, but our mandate is amateur athletics. We go cradle to grave as long as it’s amateur.’’