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SPORTyler Boosts Athletics in Tyler, TX

SPORTyler supports vibrant athletics scene.

By Phil Newman on May 7, 2015

Tyler, TX
Tyler / Coutesy of Apache Athletics

In 2007, Tyler Junior College (TJC) hosted the D-III junior-college Baseball World Series for the first time. Before the following season, TJC Athletic Director Tim Drain received a photo from one of the tournament teams showing its 2008 practice jersey. Emblazoned across the back, two words caught his eye: DESTINATION TYLER.

“A lightning bolt went off,†Drain says. “At that moment, I knew we had accomplished what we set out to do. They wanted to come back. A majority of the credit goes to SPORTyler for their partnership and the hospitality they showed to our guests.”

Come back they have, year after year since. Tyler has become a go-to destination for National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championships in baseball, women’s soccer and men’s soccer, with tennis on the way in 2016. Drain is among many who affirm SPORTyler’s role in the area’s growing appeal as a host and also in promoting the power of athletics throughout the community.

SPORTyler’s Widespread Impact

Founded in 1990, SPORTyler is a nonprofit that operates under the umbrella of the Tyler Economic Development Council and the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the city. Its efforts are funded through the hotel/motel bed tax.

In addition to coming alongside TJC and other local colleges and schools to attract and host athletic-related events, SPORTyler has its imprint on youth leagues, tournaments and camps. In 2014, it began presenting the annual Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award to the top D1 offensive football athlete from a Texas high school, college or junior college.

Athletics are a big part of life for many area residents, and SPORTyler “strives to add that Tyler hospitality to every event,†says Cindy Smoak, who directs the organization’s efforts as vice president.

“We offer a variety of free services including registration assistance, complimentary goodie bags, help blocking hotel rooms, brochures, maps and more,†Smoak says. “We treat each event individually and ask ourselves what we as parents or participants would hope to take away. That means we pay very close attention to each event’s details.

The ‘H’ word

“Hospitality is the key,†Smoak emphasizes. “It is our job to help planners host a successful event and make sure our visitors feel welcome, leave with a great experience, and return to Tyler with even more events because they had such a great time.”

It’s not only administrators who laud SPORTyler; athletes and coaches also give the group high marks. Take Christine Ragona, a former soccer player who now serves as a women’s assistant coach at TJC.

“When I played in the national tournament, I remember Mrs. Smoak and the other staff members being so friendly, helpful and approachable,†Ragona says. “Now, as a coach, I can say SPORTyler makes every event extra special. They provide the teams with anything they need to have a great time.”

Looking ahead, Smoak says SPORTyler will seek to continue growing athletic tourism in Tyler.

“We have incredible facilities, we are in a great location and have a lot to offer,†she says. “We have three major colleges, beautiful golf courses, and tennis courses for youth and adult events, and incredible school systems that have venues that can be utilized for school and club sports. The possibilities are limitless.”

“Hospitality is the key. It is our job to help planners host a successful event and make sure our visitors feel welcome, leave with a great experience, and return to Tyler with even more events because they had such a great time.”

Cindy Smoak
Vice President, SPORTyler
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