By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut lawmakers looking for new economic drivers in the state are pointing to golf as an example of why professional sports may be worth a bigger investment from government.
Nathan Grube, the chairman of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, joined other representatives of the industry at the state Capitol on Wednesday, touting what they say is a $1.1 billion impact on the state’s economy from golf.
Grube pointed to a 2011 report that showed his tournament, the state’s PGA Tour stop, created about 250 new jobs last year and pumped about $28 million into the local economy.
A separate report showed the entire industry, which also includes 185 golf courses and driving ranges across Connecticut, equipment dealers and amateur tournaments, provide 11,500 jobs in the state.
“Sports are very, very good for the economy, there is no other way around it,” Grube said. “Now blow that up to all the arenas we have in the state. … I know we’re talking about golf, but having the state support all that and see that there is such an asset there, is part of the message that we have.”
Grube said the large crowds, corporate sponsorships and hours of television coverage from events such as the Travelers tournament also provide a huge marketing benefit to the state.
“We’re out there promoting our region,” Grube said. “Use it. Bring up people from Massachusetts. Bring up people from New York. Show them what is unique about Connecticut. Use this venue to entertain and educate about what the state has to offer.”
Jeff Berger, D-Waterbury, the House chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee said golf compares favorably to other key state industries, such as accounting and tax preparation ($1.5 billion) and fast-food ($1.3 billion).
He said Connecticut can do more to tap the sports market, such as creating a quasi-public sports authority that could help attract events and teams to the state.
“The state has got to do more,” he said. “Part of that is marketing, part of that is reaching out to secondary market sports– lacrosse, rugby — sports where we can get national championships, amateur baseball, Division II World Series games. There is a vast reach where we can look at.”
Berger said the state also needs to do something about improving venues such as the XL Center in Hartford to help attract professional sports leagues such as the NHL to Connecticut.
Connecticut currently has a sports advisory council to help bring events into the state. But plans for the quasi-public sports authority, which would not be reliant on the state budget for funding, have failed to pass the legislature in recent years.
That authority would be charged with keeping track of sporting events in Connecticut, supporting and promoting them, and creating websites.
“It’s my mission to really advance that,” he said. “Part of that is bonding, being outside the government realm and really looking at it as a business to be able to expand the industry and to be able to bond on their own outside of government.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)