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Enhancement, new construction among suggestions for Fox Valley sports tourism


NEENAH, WI (WTAQ) - A study commissioned by the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau was released to community members Wednesday in Neenah.

The study's goal is to identify how to grow sports tourism spending in the Fox Valley through regional and national sports tournaments.

“Some of our recommendations are enhancements to what they’re already doing, and it’s not just venue-based, but more people power as well,” Jon Schmieder, CEO of Huddle Up Group, told FOX 11.

The Phoenix-based firm is recommending the bureau pursue a sports venue development and marketing campaign, construct a new indoor facility for hard-court sports like basketball, volleyball and track; and enhance current facilities, such as the Tri-County Ice Arena in Neenah, as well as Appleton’s Family Ice Center and the USA Youth Sports Complex.

“There are a couple different suggestions we have,” said Schmieder. “It just depends on what the bureau wants to do.”

The group is also recommending the bureau work to raise the hotel room tax by 2 percent, which would generate an estimated $24 million over 30 years; with the bureau pitching in $500,000 to get the project off the ground.

Tourism officials say the room tax increase is on top of the yet-to-be-approved room tax increase to fund part of Appleton’s proposed $28 million downtown exhibition center expansion.

“The nice thing about sports tourism – its families,” said the visitor's bureau executive director Pam Seidl. “They tend to stay longer and spend a little more money when they’re here.”

Seidl says the bureau – which represents 19 communities along the Fox River, south of Brown County – paid less than $20,000 for the study. 

Once the bureau decides what it wants to do, the next question is who will assume the risk, if the facilities and improvements don’t make money.

The consultant is suggesting bids for the recommendations start this summer, with a grand opening in 2016. However, that timeline depends on what recommendations the visitors bureau moves forward with, and how quickly.

(Additional reporting by FOX 11).