Jason Sands grew up a sports fan. And now that he’s in Fort Worth, he wants to make it one of the nation’s top sports towns.
Sands, 37, has only been on the job as sports marketing director for the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau since May 1, but he has big plans for the city and its sports image.
Sands’ resume shows he knows how to bring events to town. During four years as executive director of the Evansville (Indiana) Sports Corp., he managed and secured such events as the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight and National Championship in 2014 and 2015, NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Midwest Regionals during 2014-2016, and the 10th Annual U.S. Figure Skating National Theater on Ice Competition earlier this year.
A graduate of Indiana University, Sands was accredited as a certified sports event executive by the National Association of Sports Commissions and served on the founding board of directors of Sports Indiana. He also spent time as the director of sponsorship and marketing for the EVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour and as the director of sports development at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
Sands plans to build from the strong base Fort Worth Sports Marketing already has in place, which includes hosting the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships. The group was also instrumental in bringing the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 Women’s Gymnastics National Championship and 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament first and second rounds to the new Dickies Arena, which is scheduled to open in 2019.
Sands took a little time to discuss his passion for sports, his new job and what’s ahead for sports in Fort Worth with the Fort Worth Business Press.
Did you play any sports yourself in high school or college?
I played baseball and tennis in high school.
Why did you choose sports marketing as a career?
I’ve been a huge sports fan ever since I was a little kid. My dad was a big sports fan and growing up just outside of Chicago, it was Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, [White] Sox, Notre Dame football and IU [Indiana University] basketball 24/7. I was hooked. I went to Indiana University and got a degree in sports communications and ended up working for a Pro Beach Volleyball Tour after graduation. I got to learn about the business side of sports and I got to experience first-hand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make events successful. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.
What is the greatest challenge of your position?
I’ve only been here two months, so the biggest challenge for me right now is figuring out how to navigate the highways when my GPS goes out. As far as the responsibility of securing sporting events for the City of Fort Worth, I think the sky is the limit, and I am excited for the challenges that await around the corner. In the meantime, we’re going to work every single day to push Fort Worth sports tourism forward.
What are your major goals with the CVB?
We want the world to know that Fort Worth is a great place to host a sporting event. We have an amazing infrastructure in place in this community that is designed to help events thrive. From our elected officials and community leaders, our corporate partners, our amazing residents that volunteer for events, or our world-class hospitality partners and venues, our community rallies together to pull off major sporting events, and our goal with the CVB is to bring more events to Fort Worth so their fans and athletes can experience all this great city has to offer.
Fort Worth has such a great story to tell when it comes to our Western heritage and our culture. It’s truly unique and it’s our job to get that story told.
How will the building of the new arena help you achieve those goals?
The new arena is a game changer and it’s already helping us attract high-profile events to Fort Worth. This isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill arena. The new Dickies Arena will be one of the most high-tech, fan-friendly, spectacular arenas ever built, and I think it sends a strong message to the sports world that Fort Worth is committed to sports tourism for the long term.
Do you feel Fort Worth is a good sports town?
Fort Worth is a great sports town and you have to look no further than some of the sports entities that have thrived here to see that. The PGA Dean & Deluca Championship, the Armed Forces Bowl, the NASCAR and Indy Car races at [Texas Motor Speedway], the Cowtown Marathon, the Stock Show and Rodeo and TCU athletics. Talk about a tradition of success.
Fort Worth understands that it takes a village to make events like this a success, and we have developed a template over time that centers around our collaborative spirit, community pride and our unparalleled hospitality. Fort Worth is a sports town, and investments like what you have seen with the new arena are proof that it will continue to be a sports-centric city for many years to come.
What sporting events would you like to bring to Fort Worth in addition to the ones already coming?
Fort Worth is growing at an unbelievable pace, not just with new residents but when it comes to infrastructure as well. We have more than 13,000 hotel rooms with more than a dozen new hotel projects in the works. The new arena will be up and running by the end of 2019, adding to an already impressive venue list that includes Texas Motor Speedway, Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and Game On Sports Complex, to name a few.
Our job at the CVB is to keep pace with that growth and work with our hotels and venues to build partnerships with event organizers and national governing bodies to bring events here that will ultimately have a positive economic impact on Fort Worth. There are several new events in the pipeline as we speak, and we have no plans of slowing down.