Tag Archives: U.S. Olympic Swim Trials

Omaha is a Pro When it Comes to Amateur Sports

January 21, 2019 by

Anybody who knows anything about Omaha’s sports history knows the name Bob Gibson. One of Omaha’s most notable athletes, Gibson started as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1957; everyone expected him to have a future in the National Basketball Association. After all, he was a standout basketball player at Technical High School and later Creighton University.  But Gibson’s career changed to baseball when the St. Louis Cardinals offered him a contract. In 1959, he made his Major League Baseball debut.

One of the highlights of Gibson’s pitching career was a recorded 17 strikeouts during Game 1 of the 1968 World Series. Gibson’s success that season sparked fundamental changes in the rules of baseball—sometimes known as the “Gibson Rules.” The MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound by five inches and reduced the strike zone height from the batter’s armpits to his jersey letters. Who would have thought a kid from Omaha would one day have such an impact on the game?

Throughout Omaha’s history, local fans have cheered homegrown athletes like Gibson, NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, NBA player Kyle Korver, and welterweight world champion Terence Crawford as they climbed the sports ladder to become professional athletes. Today, Omaha continues to embrace amateur athletes and their fans as the city hosts events such as the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, NCAA basketball, volleyball tournaments, wrestling tournaments, and the NCAA Men’s College World Series.

The city even embraces the youngest of athletes during events like Slumpbusters, a little league tournament that attracts more than 500 youth baseball teams from across the country. In February each year, Omaha hosts more than 400 high school teams from across the country for the annual President’s Day Volleyball tournament. Youth sporting events use baseball fields, volleyball courts, and sporting facilities throughout the metro area.   

These sporting events are fun for young athletes and their families, but are also good for business. When an out-of-state team competes in Omaha, the team, their fans, out-of-town media, and officials stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in stores. In fact, recent research revealed a party of three visiting Omaha for a sporting event, on average, stays four days and spends $1,298—that’s more than the average business traveler, or average family of three visiting for a fun weekend, typically spends.

The next time you are sitting in the stands watching a basketball game, cheering at a baseball tournament, or witnessing an amazing swimming performance, keep this in mind—you may be sitting next to a visitor who is helping to boost Omaha’s economy as you both cheer on the next generation of hall-of-famers.


Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

This column was printed in the February/March 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Omaha Tourism Trivia

August 26, 2016 by

With the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in the city this past summer, out-of-town visitors were front and center, but do you know how many out-of-towners visit Omaha during a typical year?

Take a guess:

A    250,000

B    1.2 million

C    750,000

D   11.9 million

If you guessed B or C, you are like most people we ask, but the answer is D. According to research conducted by Tourism Economics—an Oxford Economics Company, 11.9 million visitors come to Omaha every year. We define a visitor as someone who travels to Omaha from more than 50 miles away. About 60 percent of those are day visitors, folks who travel in from places like Shenandoah, Iowa, to go shopping, out to eat, to see their doctor, or to take in a performance and then return home. The other 40 percent are overnight visitors—people who come to visit relatives, families who want to enjoy a long weekend getaway, fans who travel to Omaha for sporting events or concerts, convention delegates, and business travelers. While we at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB) don’t have much control over where your relatives live, or with whom you do business, we do have an impact on leisure travelers and convention delegates.

Our convention sales team focuses on bringing convention business here. They travel the country promoting Omaha to groups such as the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives, which met in Omaha in July. The organization is made up of 200 associations that also hold meetings throughout the year, so this one meeting could garner even more convention business in the future for the city. Last year alone, the convention sales team was responsible for 291 meetings here in Omaha, and those meetings brought in more than $125 million to our local economy. 

Our marketing team focuses on building Omaha’s reputation as a great leisure destination, a place where families, couples, and friends can enjoy a fun getaway. In addition to purchasing national advertising to brand Omaha as a visitor destination, the marketing team also targets the drive market, a 250-mile radius around Omaha. A 10-month-long regional advertising campaign in Kansas City, Des Moines, and Sioux Falls paid off. According to independent surveys conducted by Scarborough Research, a total of 402,212 visitors from those cities came to Omaha for an overnight visit during 2015, a 9.3 percent increase over 2014. Think about it: if each of these visitors spent $100 while in Omaha, that’s a $40 million payoff for our city.

So next time you’re on Jeopardy and they ask how many people visit Omaha each year, aim high…we do. B2B

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Local Champions Bring Millions Home

April 29, 2016 by

It’s one thing to love a city, it’s quite another to try and convince national associations, sporting organizations, and groups to plan a meeting, convention or event in your city. If it was easy cities wouldn’t need Convention & Visitors Bureaus, but the unsung champion in the whole process is you.

More than 25 local Omaha residents, from the powerful to the average Joe, have helped bring convention, meeting and event business to our city this year.

With Harold Cliff’s leadership the Omaha Sports Commission (local community leaders who volunteer their time) worked to have Omaha selected to host the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for a third time. It didn’t hurt that the 2012 Omaha event broke attendance records for any swimming event ever held in the U.S. including the Olympics in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

President and Founder of TotalWellness, Alan Kohll, proves that persistence pays off when Omaha was chosen as the location for the 2016 USA Triathlon. Omaha Zoo CEO, Dennis Pate helped convince the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums to meet in Omaha, the event will bring in 900 attendees from all over the world and more than $1 million in visitor spending.  Omaha City Clerk Buster Brown, having gone to conventions in other cities for years, convinced the International Institute of Municipal Clerks to look at Omaha; they did and will be holding their annual conference here in May. UNO’s Deepak Khazanchi , Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, is constantly putting Omaha’s name in the mix, and this year helped Omaha bring the World Intelligence Congress meeting to Omaha. Following in Warren Buffett’s footsteps, Lori and Paul Hogan, who own Home Instead Senior Care, hold their companies international convention in Omaha every year – they could go anywhere, they choose to bring the meeting business home.

This is just a small sampling of the convention and sporting business coming to Omaha in 2016, yet it means more than $53 million in economic impact for the city.

From the Omaha Lions Club to the local Cat Clubs, Omaha residents are making a real impact. And it’s simple for you to do the same. If you are a member of an organization, association or sporting group think about bringing your organization’s meeting or event to Omaha.  We’ll do all the heavy lifting; we just need a local boost from you.