As March Madness descends on Dallas, Fort Worth will be having some sports fun of its own, and on an Olympic level.
About 1,200 competitors will participate Friday and Saturday in USA Taekwondo's 2018 Texas State Championship in the Fort Worth Convention Center. The event serves as a national qualifier and draws competitors as young as 5 and as old as 70.
Texas is a top producer of Olympic taekwondo medalists, and all eyes will be on this event, says Inseon Kim, president of the Texas State Taekwondo Association. The group has held several competitions at the downtown convention center and will likely come back for more.
"It's very convenient for everyone," said Kim, including an expected 4,000 spectators.
And they don't mind sharing the spotlight with the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
This is exactly the type of sporting event Fort Worth wants to see more of as it establishes itself in the $15-billion-a-year youth and amateur sports industry.
Two years ago, Visit Fort Worth, formerly the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, established a sports marketing arm with a full-time employee. Sports tourism has been successful in Fort Worth, but there's more to be had, Visit Fort Worth says.
Jason Sands became Visit Fort Worth's second sports marketing director a little more than a year ago. He has watched the industry evolve over his 13 years in the business.
To better understand the city's sports potential, Visit Fort Worth, in conjunction with the Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department and the Fort Worth Sports Authority, is hiring a consultant to study the sports facilities in Fort Worth..
That study could result in new youth facilities and more sports-related events to Fort Worth, Sands said.
One of those facilities, the new 14,000-seat Dickies Arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, has already been a game changer for the city, Sands said.
After opening in 2019, the arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2022, the NCAA gymnastics championships in 2020-22 and the American Athletic Conference championships in 2020-22.
Investing in youth and amateur sporting events can have an astronomical return, Sands said.
Fort Worth has been a popular location for gymnastics and cheerleading competitions. Most recently, the convention center hosted the 500-team UIL State Spirit Championship and this spring will host the National Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs and USA Gymnastics’s tumbling and trampoline competition, which is expected to draw more than 800 participants.
One of the goals of Visit Fort Worth is to establish a sports commission to attract and support youth and amateur sporting events, Sands said. Many cities have gone in this direction, he said.
"Youth sports are recession-resistant," Sands said. "Mom and Dad are always going to make sure to get their kids to that tournament. There's just so many opportunities."
Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST