The evolution of our athletic tourism boom

Games of Texas Crowd

By J.D. Wood, Tourism Manager

A couple of years ago, the City of College Station made a decision that would not only shape the direction of its Parks and Recreation Department, but the way people outside our community see us as a tourism destination.

In academic circles, it’s referred to as parks, recreation and tourism sciences, but the tourism part is usually dropped when applied to typical parks and recreation departments. However, College Station’s city management made the commitment to emphasize tourism as a way for our community to display what we locals already knew — College Station is a great place to visit and live.

We then joined forces with the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Bryan and Texas A&M to completely transform the local athletic tourism landscape.


The quick progression and success of the reimagined department is illustrated by the results. The city used to attract about 34 events a year, mostly local or small qualifying events.

But in 2014, the City of College Station and the other local entities brought 68 events to our community, including a number of large state-level events such as the Adidas 7-of-7 football championship and the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation’s Games of Texas.

That growth doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon as 2015 will surpass last year in both the number and scale of events. To borrow a phrase frequently applied to the Texas A&M football program, the City of College Station has achieved #werunthisstate status when it comes to athletic tourism.

Effort pays off

Our push for more state and regional events has already paid dividends as we’ve secured the 2018-19 TAAF Games of Texas and the 2016 American Softball Association’s 16-and-Under National Championship. These are huge events that will attract tens of thousands of participants and supporters to our community.

That success was capped earlier this month when we won the bid for the 2016 U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Presidents Cup, which will bring in more than 150 of the best soccer teams from 13 states for four days in June. It’s been a dozen years since a Presidents Cup regional was contested in Texas and it’s never been held in College Station. In other words, it’s a big deal.

Partnerships set us apart

The dynamic partnership of College Station, Bryan, the CVB and Texas A&M is what separates us when it comes to these bid processes. Toss in the renewed focus of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, and you see a path to success that makes our events market a key player on the state, regional and national stage.

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About the Author: J.D. Wood has been the City of College Station’s tourism manager since April after serving as lead athletic supervisor since 2013. He has extensive experience in sports and tourism, including stints with the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and Texas A&M Athletics. A native of Onalaska, J.D. earned both his bachelor’s (2009) and master’s (2010) degrees in sports management from Texas A&M.