Guest blogger: Alan Verlander, Executive Director, Sports & Entertainment, Office of Mayor Alvin Brown
It’s no secret that there’s always something going on in Downtown Jacksonville. Whether it’s in the entertainment district, Art Walk, or riverfront events such as RAM and Community First Saturdays, my job is to add to the energy Downtown by bringing in sports events that appeal to a wide range of residents. For example, last May, we hosted two major events which brought over 200,000 people to Downtown in the span of a few days. This blowout weekend packaged the multi-day Jacksonville Jazz Festival and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team versus Scotland game as the “the biggest weekend ever.” This video shows the enthusiasm and excitement these types of events create. That’s the model we want to go after – creating a really unique vibe Downtown that people want to be part of.
We also realize that younger generations are the key to building and sustaining growth in Jacksonville. So we’re working hard to attract events that will appeal to this younger demographic and recreate successes such as last summer’s “Go Skate Day” in Hemming Plaza. We’re looking into more opportunities for action-sports events such as skateboarding. The Florida-Georgia Football Classic continues to be one of the best ways to showcase all that Jacksonville has to offer all generations.
We see what’s happening in cities like Nashville, Cincinnati and Austin, and the success they’re having in using sporting events to drive visitor traffic. Jacksonville has the infrastructure, the venues, the people and the desire, to increase visitor traffic through sports.
Our role is to bring events to our great venues Downtown and the region as a whole, but they’re only successful if people attend them. We want to provide an experience for Jacksonville area residents. We’re all journalists now and we want people to help to promote our events, and our city – on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter. The key is energy and excitement and that’s how we share our story.
Share your comments below about the types of sports events you’d like to see Downtown.