More than 900 athletes got to experience Victoria’s top-notch athletic facilities firsthand during the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Winter Games earlier this month—and we hope there will be many more to follow.
It was a historic weekend for our city and for TAAF itself. When Victoria last year made a successful bid to host the TAAF Winter Games through 2024, we became the first city outside of a metropolitan area to host this event that draws athletes from around Texas and neighboring states.
The fact that we were able to secure this contract is not only a testament to the collaboration between the City of Victoria (Parks & Recreation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau) and Victoria ISD to craft the winning bid package; it shows the benefit of our community’s ongoing intentional effort to invest in facilities that will help to make our city a destination for sports tourism.
Victoria affirmed its commitment to cultivating sports tourism during the development of our 2035 Comprehensive Plan. Tourism is a driving factor in economic development: During the TAAF Winter Games, hundreds of athletes visited our community, ate at our restaurants and slept at our hotels. This not only brings new funds to our community but contributes to economic diversity by supporting the hospitality sector.
Having a strong lineup of athletic facilities and opportunities for competition is also beneficial for local sports enthusiasts. In addition to the out-of-towners, the TAAF Winter Games included many local athletes and spectators who didn’t need to leave home to experience a top-tier amateur sporting event.
Our efforts to grow sports tourism can be seen through our investment in facilities like the Youth Sports Complex, the Riverside Soccer Complex and our disc golf courses, all of which were featured in our winning bid package. The second round of the TAAF Winter Games in March will feature some facilities that weren’t profiled the first time around as we host golf (Riverside Golf Course), flag football and potentially more sports. This year, we will conduct a thorough assessment of Victoria’s sports facilities so we can fill in the gaps and make our lineup even more competitive.
We will also continue to collaborate with VISD and other community partners to share resources and offer facilities that the City wouldn’t be able to provide on its own, such as VISD’s natatorium that drew a crowd for the swimming competition. Our community has many great facilities operated by our schools, the County and other groups, and we want to make sure these resources are included when we’re showing outsiders what Victoria has to offer.
Of course, our facilities won’t make much of a difference if tournament organizers don’t know we’re here. We’re working to be more proactive in promoting Victoria as a destination for sports tourism, a process that will include hiring a new sports tourism manager and seeking bid opportunities to host more competitions and tournaments. These efforts paid off when we got the TAAF contract, and successfully hosting the winter games will raise Victoria’s profile as we seek out more opportunities.
As we continue to improve our facilities and promote our event-hosting capabilities, you can expect to see more events, more visitors and more revenue that we can use to enhance livability in our community. Victoria has the capacity to be a top-tier destination for sports tourism, and I’m sure that the 900 athletes who competed here this month would agree.
Jesús A. Garza is the city manager for the City of Victoria.