The state government spent $1.3 million of its tourism budget to create an organization dedicated to attracting large events to the state.
The Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau will be a public-private partnership between the Department of Economic and Community Development and what is now the former Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau. In addition to the $1.3 million, the organization will be funded through dues by member organizations, most of whom were members of the GHCVB.
"I now feel like there is an army with me as I go and try to get events into Hartford," said Chuck Steedman, senior vice president and general manager of the XL Center. "This is the state of Connecticut. We are here to play ball."
CTCSB will intensify outreach and marketing efforts previously undertaken by the GHCVB to bring new revenue into the state from meeting planners and sports promoters. The types of events range from televised events such as the USA Gymnastics Championship to lesser notable but equally as important events such as youth soccer and youth hockey tournaments.
The organization will manage convention support and housing services for the Connecticut Convention Center, the Connecticut Convention Advisory Board and the Sports Convention Advisory Board.
"The partnership is the right partnership," said Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. "It is the right time, and we are excited to be a part of it."
The creation of the CTCSB out of the GHCVB is part of Gov. Dannel Malloy's efforts to increase tourism in Connecticut. Upon taking office in 2011, Malloy increased the tourism marketing budget to $15 million annually, up from a single dollar under former Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The state in May launched a new tourism marketing campaign – Still Revolutionary.
"Tourism is economic development, and it is one of the purest forms of economic development," Fiveash said.
The newly formed CTCSB is also a win for the GHCVB, which has been operating on a shoestring budget for the past three years as tourism funding dried up. The organization forced former President Scott Phelps – a 33-year veteran of the tourism industry – to resign in 2010 to make room in the budget. Since, the organization has operated with only a handful of people, trying to attract visitors, conventions and sports events to Greater Hartford.
Now, GHCVB President Michael Van Parys will take over as CTCSB president, and the GHCVB board will become the CTCSB board.
"Consider what we can now do that we have some scale and some funds behind us," CTCSB Chairman Robert Flynn said. "It is revolutionary."