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Maryland sports marketing arm to be nonprofit

Terry Hasseltine

The Maryland Office of Sports Marketing is about to change into a nonprofit with the goal of bringing in more money from business partnerships to attract large national and international sporting events.

The idea of a public-private sports marketing entity had been in the works for years, and officials hope the independent office will be open by the spring. The new agency, called the Maryland Sports Council, will be the first such entity in the state, and among only a few statewide commissions in the country.

Sports marketing industry members say that such an agency will make it easier for Maryland to lure big events and big dollars.

“We’re going to change the culture of sports in Maryland to be global,” said Terry Hasseltine, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing. “Why can’t we host an international volleyball match between Team USA and Team Russia? If we can’t, then why can’t we? Maybe we should figure out how to change that.”

The partnership’s inception came when Maryland Office of Sports Marketing was formed in 2008 as a two-man agency. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Maryland Stadium Authority hired Hasseltine to head the office and work on the idea of creating the new council after the first few years of working in Maryland.

Hasseltine said he looked at successful parts of different sports commissions across the country, particularly the nonprofit commissions in Louisville, Ky.; Utah and Indianapolis, as models for the Maryland Sports Council.

“Public-private is the best way to run a sports commission,” said Don Schumacher, executive director of National Association of Sports Commissions in Cincinnati.

About 25 states have government involvement in sports commissions, Schumacher said. But 10 years ago, only two or three states had government involvement, he said. The balance of public-private commissions is becoming more popular and more successful because the financial load is shared, and because local governments are catching onto the economic importance of the sports travel industry, Schumacher said.

Maryland’s commission will be one of the few that will market the entire state as a venue for different sporting events, he said.

“My suspicion what has happened is that Maryland said, ‘We’re kind of a compact state,’ and there are going to be things the entire state can do to throw out the welcome mat,” Schumacher said.

Hasseltine said he also waited until Maryland and the nation’s economic environment improved before filing with Internal Revenue Service to create a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. That application was approved at the end of 2010, and Hasseltine is now asking for business members from across the state to create a committee for the Maryland Sports Council. Hasseltine said he hopes to have eight members appointed by spring 2012. The number of members could grow as large as 50, Hasseltine said, to represent all the state’s regions.

Those members will be able to create subcommittees and potentially levy membership fees to boost the group’s budget.

The Office of Sports Marketing’s operating budget is $250,000, with $200,000 coming from the Maryland Stadium Authority and $50,000 from DBED. Hasseltine said he wants to increase the operating budget to about $550,000 to $750,000 by 2014, with most of the money coming from business partnerships.

MSA and DBED will continue to fund the agency as it transitions into the nonprofit, said Maryland Stadium Authority Executive Director Michael J. Frenz.

“If the 501(c) 3 garners corporate support, it really facilitates corporate resources,” Frenz said.

The structure of the agency would also give it more flexibility with revenue, such as being able to sell advertising for events, MSA officials said.