The official date for the 20th anniversary of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission is today, June 27.
It was 25 years ago, however, when Linda Logan was recruited by the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau to fill the position of director of sports marketing. He was asked to do advanced scouting, so to speak, for something bigger.
Logan typed out a wish list when she arrived on the banks of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers in 1997.
By this time, Logan was already an experienced sports administrator. She had worked for 10 years in Kansas City, where she facilitated relationships with various entities – the KC Convention Center, the Big Eight Conference, Kemper Arena, etc.
Kansas City, the longtime home of the NCAA headquarters, knew how to attract sports business. Indianapolis aspired to be at the forefront of business; it attracted the NCAA in the late 1990s and remade the city’s image with sports at all levels, amateur and professional.
The tussle to be king of the sport in the Midwest continued when Logan arrived in Columbus, known as a deserted cow town on weeknights and weekends.
Logan typed out his wishlist:
A new 1,000-room hotel connected to the convention center.
More daily flights to the city.
A good working relationship between downtown and Ohio State arenas.
Community Consensus on the “Columbus Area Athletics Commission”.
Sufficient funding and realistic expectations for said commission.
The last item on the wish list was about creating a culture of spreading the word: teamwork was essential in every bidding process; a resource person or persons could facilitate these processes; and everyone involved had to project a good image of the city.
Logan, who started with a one-person team (herself) and has been the head of the athletic committee since its founding, recently rediscovered the old wishlist in one of his binders. It was like a time machine.
Twenty-five years ago, Ohio State was about to open the Value City Arena, the Nationwide Arena was put on the drawing board, and university and downtown leaders had ideas. different on the city’s growth trajectory (i.e. their relationship was frosty). The Arena District was the site of a recently demolished state penitentiary.
And the Greater Columbus Athletic Commission didn’t exist.
Twenty-five years later, the Schottenstein Center and Nationwide are under the same management (because it was silly for a city of this size to open two huge arenas, which is part of that story). The site and surrounding area of the former Ohio State Penitentiary is now a string of pearls (Nationwide, Huntington Park, Lower.com Field) amidst much activity.
The sports commission is funded by a public-private partnership that includes 70 companies, many of them downtown. Logan is the outfit’s president and CEO. Long live the queen.
She and her staff have helped book and organize nearly 600 events, large and small, over the past two decades. These events covered the range of 45 different sports. They generated approximately $625 million in visitor spending.
They are known for their successful deals on major productions – 2013 President’s Cup, 2015 NHL All-Star Game, 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four2021 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. But the big hits don’t equal the sum of the little hits.
For example, the commission has a good relationship with USA Volleyball and USA Fencing, among other governing bodies that return to Columbus year after year. They appreciate the vibrancy of the big cities of the place and the friendliness of the Midwest of their hosts. And they know that their events will be well organized.
“When you talk about realistic expectations, you’re thinking here and yearning,” Logan said, holding his hand above his head. “You do the work here and try to make a difference. Some people want us to bid for the Olympics, but if we can achieve one or two of our three goals with any event, we consider it is a success.”
From the outset, their objectives were as follows: To enhance the image of the city; enrich the quality of life for all who live and work in Central Ohio; and stimulate economic and social development through sport.
Logan is the smile on Columbus Sports’ face. She embraced leaders from all walks of city life – big business, small business, charities, nonprofits, educational entities, the Buckeyes, the Blue Jackets, and more. – and got everyone to carry the city flag, together.
Over the years, its staff has grown and contracted (it now numbers 11, post-pandemic), but the culture has remained the same. A big part of this culture is a sisterhood of women who are polished to shine as they go forward, whatever their walk of life.
In August, the second Hilton tower, with more than 1,000 rooms, will open next to the convention center. It’s a game changer. It opens up the city to a larger class of events that need both convention space and an arena.
Thus, another box on Logan’s 25th birthday wish list is being ticked.
But what about more daily flights to the city?
“It’s getting better,” Logan said.
The woman is not a miracle worker, you know.