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Great Rivers & Routes hires Huddle Up Group for sports strategic plan

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ALTON — The Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau has partnered with Huddle Up Group, an Arizona-based organization, to enhance local sports tourism promotion.

Cory Jobe, President and CEO of the tourism bureau, said expanding sports tourism in southwest Illinois is a 2023 priority for the group. In September, the Madison County Board approved providing $750,000 of its federal American Rescue Plan Act money to Great Rivers & Routes to enhance sports tourism promotions.

“Every year we see the economic impact of sports tourism on our region and know we can do better,” he said.

“Growing sports events in our region will bring in more overnight stays, increase local tax revenues and we anticipate businesses will see an increase in sales,” said Jobe. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

According to Jobe, Huddle Up will help identify, grow, develop and service Great Rivers & Rutes’ sports tourism efforts. The work will include the development of a long-range strategic plan for expanding sports in Madison County.

Huddle Up will conduct a market needs assessment on sports participation trends and complete a regional facility audit, identifying existing public and private sports facilities. It also will recommend facility upgrades and evaluate existing community needs.

Tourism officials said that, as part of the project, Huddle Up will create a comparative market analysis and market demand report. The market analysis report will include a comparison of the Great Rivers & Routes sports tourism market with at least three similar cities. It will include community input and participation, and recommend opportunities to advance sports tourism using the region’s facilities and natural resources.

Huddle Up Group founder and CEO Jon Schmieder said the firm is excited about the partnership with Great Rivers & Routes.

“This is a watershed moment for the destination for both sports tourism and their community user groups,” said Schmieder. “We look forward to engaging with the key stakeholders to deliver a solid strategic plan which will enhance the communities through sports in the years to come.”

Huddle Up officials plan to do on-site visits in the region and interview key athletic representatives as part of its work.

“We are looking forward to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how we can impact sports tourism in southwest Illinois,” said Jobe. “This is just the first step in a process that will bring sustained economic growth to the region.” 

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