New officers elected for Mount Airy TDA

By Jessica Johnson

January 18, 2014

Elections for Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority officers were held on Friday morning, with General Manager of Hampton Inn Lenise Lynch being tapped as board president, replacing Greg Perkins. Lynch previously served as vice president.

Winemaker and co-owner of Old North State Winery Ben Webb took over as vice president, with Cross Creek Country Club’s Magan Atkinson elected to continue her role as secretary and General Manager of Holiday Inn Trudy Willard taking over Webb’s previously held spot as treasurer.

AAU and sports tournament updates

The authority heard a report from Reeves Community Center Assistant Director Darren Lewis, who said he was there on behiaf of the Gerald Culler, Surry Storm Basketball club president.

At the autority’s December meeting,the organization voted to make a one-time financial contribution of $2,000 to each tournament that brought in a minimum of 40 teams, but also decided to do further research about future guidelines they would put in place.

Tournaments planned for this year included two reoccurring tournaments: Surry Storm Mayberry March Madness on March 1 and 2 with more than 100 teams, as well as Surry Storm Fall Hoopfest on Oct. 4 and 5 with 50 to 60 teams. In addition, there are more tournaments planned, such as the National Travel Ball Association Qualifier on March 21 through March 23, and the National Ball Association State Championship with more than 100 teams expected.

TDA board member Sandy Hallman said went over research she had done that showed how TDAs and cities attract sports tournaments, including information from Banner Elk, Henderson County, and British Columbia, Canada. She said those areas often attract multiple sports tournaments, including many people from more than 50 miles away, which helps generate business for local hotels and restaurants.

Lewis said the Reeves Foundation makes no proceeds from the tournaments, and added that Surry Storm is set up as a non-profit organization, with any proceeds generated going toward participation in tournaments. Reeves helps as a “middle man,” Lewis said, assisting with gym reservations and helping schedule officials for games.

“What they do, Gerald Culler and Allen Hiatt with Surry Storm, to get this amount of teams to an area like ours, it’s really amazing. Last year in March we had 130 teams, and that’s almost unheard of for a town of our size. With an average of ten players per team, that’s at least 1,300 players, plus parents and grandparents, other family members…a huge number of individuals in town for at least two days,” Lewis said.

Also, Lewis said the town draws tournaments due to the fact there are “ten to 12 gyms within a five to eight mile radius” which is almost unheard of, especially in larger cities. Lynch agreed, saying she has heard comments from players’ parents who said the same thing, and were delighted they didn’t have to drive 30 minutes or more between games, which gave them more time to relax and enjoy the town.

City Commissioner and TDA member Shirley Brinkley asked if there was any downside to the tournaments, such as damage and messes created in hotel rooms from young people. Lynch said there is no problem, because the Hampton Inn management group is up front about expectations with the coaches and they also hire extra security on the tournament weekends.

Hallman said the demographic of the groups who go to the tournaments were the type of people the area wants to come back, with many of them more “athletically inclined” and interested in recreational opportunities offered throughout the county. “We market to them while they are here, hoping they will see reasons to come back to the area.”

In other action, the TDA:

- Heard that occupancy numbers were off slightly compared to this time last year, according to General Manager of Hampton Inn Lenise Lynch and General Manager of Holiday Inn Trudy Willard. Lynch said numbers were at 27 percent occupancy, down from 37 percent last year.

- Voted to approve a job description for the Mount Airy Visitor’s Center manager and assistant director of marketing. The job would be advertised beginning in March, and the board agreed it hoped to have someone in place by tourist season.

- Agreed to hold a board retreat on March 21 in order to look at the bylaws and planning.

Reach Jessica Johnson at jessicajohnson@civitasmedia or 719-1933.