Sports promoter hired to lure events to Md.


August 08, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

Terry Hasseltine, a Kentucky sports marketing official, will be named today as the first director of a newly created Maryland office designed to attract more pro and amateur athletic events to the state.

Hasseltine, 38, best known in Kentucky for helping draw the World Equestrian Games to Lexington, said in an interview that Maryland can do a better job promoting its sports venues and competing for regional and national events.

"What this [O'Malley] administration has identified is that we have tremendous facilities around the state of Maryland," Hasseltine said. "People say: 'They have these great facilities. Why are they not at these trade shows promoting their assets?' I've seen them there, but not as a consistent presence like I've seen from other states."

Hasseltine said Maryland will aggressively pursue events - such as the Army-Navy football game and NCAA Division I men's lacrosse final four - that have obvious Maryland connections. He said he hopes to "think outside the box" to better use facilities such as Camden Yards, which was built for baseball.

He said Camden Yards, with its mezzanine and plaza, could "work well if a conference comes to town. You could do receptions, dinners and have a good overview of the park."

Maryland has often hosted the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse final four, but the event was held last season in Foxborough, Mass. Philadelphia has hosted most of the Army-Navy games, although Baltimore had the 2007 game.

Hasseltine said it was premature to say whether he might try to help attract an NBA or an NHL team to Baltimore. His appointment comes several weeks after plans were made public to raze 1st Mariner Arena and replace it with a new, larger venue.

"Anytime there's a new facility, there's always excitement around it because it has the new amenities and the new bells and whistles," Hasseltine said.

Married with two children, Hasseltine was born in New Hampshire. As deputy executive director of the Kentucky Sports Authority, he helped Kentucky land the 2010 World Equestrian Games, a two-week competition that drew hundreds of thousands of spectators when it was last held in Germany in 2006.

Many places have sports commissions or offices - including Philadelphia, St. Louis and Seattle - but they are less common at the state level.

Hasseltine said 23 states were represented at last fall's Teams Conference, an annual gathering for the sports-event industry. The previous year, only 11 states were represented, he said.

"You're seeing a lot of states forming what would be statewide sports commissions," said Jeff Robbins, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Sports Commission, which was created before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"If you have seven cities in the state sending fragmented messages, you dilute your message. My sense is you'll see more of an evolution toward aggregated groups," Robbins said.

The Utah commission has a staff of about nine people and receives public and private funding. It says it works on drawing scores of events, including speed skating and motor sports.

Kentucky's sports authority has a public budget of about $500,000 and also receives private funds, Hasseltine said.

Hasseltine, whose title will be director of sports marketing, will start with only an administrative assistant and a budget of about $150,000. He will report to Hannah Byron, who heads the state Department of Business and Economic Development's division of tourism, film and the arts. He expects to regularly consult with the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Hasseltine said his appointment might be the first step toward a bigger marketing operation.

"My goal and objective is [to] identify whether a full-fledged statewide sports commission makes sense for Maryland and, if so, what is the structure," Hasseltine said.

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