Chesterton Tribune

Tourism bureau asked to partner with LaPorte to expand AAU sports here

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

At the start of Tuesday’s Porter County tourism bureau meeting, the board heard an invitation from the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau to team up on an effort to help bring Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sports programs to the area.

The endeavor could gain more exposure for local student athletes and boost visitor numbers for the two counties.

Jason Miller, sports operations manager for LaPorte CVB, floated the idea of collaboration to the board saying athletes in the area wanting to participate in AAU basketball programs have to travel to either Hammond or South Bend two or three nights a week.

Introducing an AAU program locally has been “a dream” for the head varsity basketball coach at Michigan City High School, Miller said. A group of parents from the school district met with Miller to discuss the idea and the first tryouts were held a few weeks ago. Miller said three district schools including Pine Elementary have established AAU basketball in their gym schedules.

AAU sports programs follow a specific style of practice and coaching in amateur sport for skilled athletes. It is one of the nation’s largest sports organizations and is known to prepare athletes for the Olympic games.

So far, no AAU sports programs have made their way to Porter County but Miller said that could change in one or two years once the programs gain more footing in LaPorte County. The idea behind partnering would be to increase the availability of venues for AAU events in both Porter and LaPorte counties, according to Miller and Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer. If all the gyms in LaPorte County are booked, AAU teams could then look to Porter County to hold an event.

Branching out to Porter County would seem logical, Miller said, because the two counties have venues with the capacity to hold AAU events and tournaments, citing Chesterton and Valparaiso High Schools for example.

“We have a great opportunity in both counties because we have solid facilities,” said Miller.

Some of these tournaments could feature up to 150 teams which would be “a real, positive step forward” for local tourism filling hotel rooms, Miller said. The programs would start with boys basketball but will later include girls basketball and additionally baseball and wrestling which tourism bureaus can promote and market.

“I like the fact that it is filling a niche in both counties and to really get the chance to work together,” said Miller.

There will be no geographic restrictions for someone to be considered for the LaPorte or Porter programs, Miller told the board, and although the focus would be for the two counties, athletes in other counties who have had difficulty being selected for AAU would be allowed the opportunity to try out.

Board member Mike Scott said that having AAU programs would also increase the number of months student athletes could practice and play a certain sport.

2013 Budget

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a draft of the tourism bureau’s operations budget for 2013 which includes an increase of $12,875 over this year.

While insurance cost figures were down due to one less employee, spikes were seen in the bureau’s postage, maintenance agreements and a $10,000 additional for building costs.

Salaries, which range from $41,250 to $61,109 for full-time employees, stayed the same. The organization plans to give its attorney David Hollenbeck an additional $2,000 in his contract agreement bringing the total to $14,000.

Budgets are determined by the County Council which has asked that departments submit drafts of their 2013 budget by July 2.

The tourism commission receives its funds from the county innkeepers’ tax and is not part of the county’s general fund.

Meanwhile, in her treasurer’s report, board member Judy Chaplin reported that the June 2012 collection check was $89,652.11 which is a 12 percent increase on cash basis and a 14 percent increase on accrual basis from June 2011.

Also on Tuesday:

• Warmer temperatures have boosted the number of visitors coming to the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center. Weimer said 3,961 visitors stopped in during April while May saw a total of 7,919, with some days alone coming close to 1,000 visitors.

• Landscaping around the visitor center has been completed. Due to a high number of inquiries, the front desk will carry information on the plant life found around the building. Other enhancements include placing a wider projector screen inside the visitor center theater and adding laptop hookups to the theater and conference room, said IDT operations director Patti Boyer.

 

 

Posted 6/13/2012