Transform greater Richmond into the most physically active community in the nation by leading the area in embracing and celebrating an active lifestyle.
The Sports Backers produce and support nationally recognized quality sporting events and programs that motivate locals and visitors alike to be more active.
- Safety: The safety of our participants, spectators, volunteers and staff is our top priority.
- Excellence: We commit to creating and organizing events and programs that achieve a nationally recognized level of excellence.
- Atmosphere: We create a fun environment for our programs and events as well as our workplace.
- Inclusivity: We encourage and support the participation of all people in our region.
- Integrity: We honor our commitments to our participants, spectators, sponsors and community partners.
- Team Oriented: We partner with other local organizations in producing sporting events by sharing our resources and expertise.
- Stewardship: We consistently seek to maintain financial stability for the organization.
During the past 21 years, the Sports Backers have aggressively grown the region’s economy through sports tourism with a record-setting $61.6 million in economic impact in 2011. The economic benefit to the region has been tremendous, but equally important has been the transformational impact the organization has had on its friends, neighbors and communities, as they have reaped the rewards of becoming more physically active.
To build on the momentum of motivating individuals to adopt a healthier and more active lifestyle, the Sports Backers launched Active RVA, a region-wide initiative to motivate area residents, businesses and local governments to make physical activity a personal and regional priority. Richmond is already considered the “Best River Town Ever,” according to Outside Magazine, in no small part due to the success of the Sports Backers. The Sports Backers’ new quest seeks to transform our region into the most physically active region in the country.
Strengthening Economic Impact
The Richmond region’s status as a destination for sports enthusiasts has never been stronger than it is today. The Sports Backers aggressively pursue opportunities to expand the number and scope of sporting events held in the region each year. The Sports Backers have increased the number of events and the size of these events on average 15 percent per year for the past 10 years. This long-term growth model is the major reason the Sports Backers were the first sports commission in the country awarded the Sports Commission of the Year title three times by the National Association of Sports Commissions.
The Sports Backers now own and produce 13 events each year that include some of the largest and most successful of their kind in the country. They include:
- Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k
- Dominion Riverrock
- Times-Dispatch Go! Discover Richmond
- Cougar 7v7 Field Hockey Tournament
- Connects Federal Credit Union Corporate 4-Miler
- Henricus Dauber Dash
- Anthem Moonlight Ride
- Patrick Henry Half Marathon
- Maymont X-Country Festival
- Martin’s Tour of Richmond
- International Dragon Boat Festival
- Call Federal Credit Union Marathon Jr.
- Anthem Richmond Marathon
The Sports Backers own $500,000 worth of sports flooring and equipment that transforms the Greater Richmond Convention Center into a sports tournament center. The follow 8 events occurred in the convention center with our flooring and equipment in 2012.
- 8th Annual Monument City Classic Tour
- VA Youth Soccer Association 2012 Workshop
- 2012 U19 National Indoor U.S. Field Hockey Tournament
- Juniors Volleyball Tournament
- Blue Chip Basketball Sports Camp
- Boys' East Coast Championships/ South Atlantic Championships Indoor Field Hockey Qualifier
The Sports Backers work to support other sports tourism events owned and operated by non-profit organizations in the Richmond region. We form strategic partnerships with selected events that show significant progress for becoming major events. We also provide marketing grants to other organizations to help grow their events. In total, we supported 22 events in 2012.
In addition, the Sports Backers bid on sporting events and support efforts to attract significant sports tourism events to the region. In 2012, this included the following five events.
- CAA Men’s Basketball Championships
- USA Field Hockey National Indoor Tournament
- VHSL AAA State Track & Field Championships
- National Veterans Wheelchair Games
- USA Field Hockey Indoor Qualifier
Promoting Active Living—Active RVA
An active lifestyle translates into a healthier and higher quality of life. Even moderate, daily physical activity increases your chance of living longer and it can be as powerful as medicine in treating many medical conditions. The Sports Backers are well on our way in making active living a prominent and permanent feature of the Richmond region’s landscape. It will take, however, a concerted effort by everyone to infuse the Active RVA movement throughout the community
Active RVA is a movement that people, communities and businesses can embrace. The Sports Backers will not own it—rather we will lead the charge to make our community the most active in the nation.
The Sports Backers organize five different training programs to encourage walking and running at more than 30 locations around the region to prepare individuals for events ranging from 4 miles up to a 26.2 mile marathon. More than 6,500 people participated in these 5 programs listed below in 2012.
- YMCA 10k Training Team
- Sports Backers Corporate 4 Miler Training Team
- Sports Backers Marathon Training Team
- Sports Backers Half Marathon Training Team
- Sports Backers 8k Training Team
The organization is going beyond our own training programs to encourage and support other walking and running training programs at area churches and community organizations. This sustainable grassroots outreach is part of an overall strategy to develop peer support groups for physical activity.
A community that measures and celebrates its goals and achievements is more likely to succeed in the long run at staying focused on the end result. For the Sports Backers, we are serious about our goal to be the most physically active region in the country. To that end, the Sports Backers will produce a scorecard of the region’s fitness each year. Among other factors, the evaluation will be based on data that include residents’ physical activity levels, obesity rates, as well as miles of bike trails and bike lanes. Additionally, the Sports Backers will formally recognize the region’s employers and schools that are implementing innovative programs to promote fitness and physical activity. These exceptional businesses and schools will be officially certified with an “Active RVA” designation and celebrated at an annual awards luncheon. The results of the region’s fitness score will be released at the awards ceremony as well.
We also realize that doctors can play an important role in encouraging their patients to be physically active to improve the health of their patients. In order to assist these doctors, the Sports Backers are developing a fitness application for computers and mobile devices to allow doctors to literally prescribe exercise right from their smartphone.
In order to encourage people to get started with integrating physical activity into their daily routines, the Sports Backers have created a stairwell signage program to encourage people to take the stairs. These messages next to elevators, on stairwell doors and on the steps themselves have been shown to be a strong motivator for moving inactive people to taking that first step toward being active by simply taking the stairs. The Sports Backers provide free use of the signs and will assist with implementation costs with local non-profits and schools.
Supporting Bicycle and Pedestrian Development
Communities that are designed to accommodate active modes of transportation such as walking and biking are significantly more physically active than those that lack sidewalks, bike lanes and trails. The Sports Backers are stepping up to address the lack of these facilities by creating Bike Walk RVA—a regional program of the Sports Backers to support bike and pedestrian friendly policies, programs and infrastructure projects.
The Sports Backers work with area leaders and public works staff to fund and install bike lanes, trails and sidewalks. We will mobilize volunteer and community support for these projects so they are built and used. The strength of the program will be based on the extent that volunteers can be recruited and utilized to develop grass roots support for projects.
The Bike Walk RVA program will maintain a list of projects the organization is currently working on at any given time. The organization will host an annual bike summit to solicit input and feedback on projects among individuals and area partners. Open Streets events will be held annually to promote active modes of transportation and healthy living.
The Sports Backers will measure the success of the Bike Walk RVA program by measuring the total miles of bike lanes, paved trails and dirt trails added each year. The Sports Backers are in the process of documenting and evaluating the status of all existing bike lanes and trails (paved and dirt) in the region.
Encouraging Active Youth
Each year, thousands of area youth participate in Kids Run RVA, which includes a variety of programs to support and reward youth athletic achievement. In 2012, there were nearly 10,000 youth that took part in our Kids Challenge running and walking incentive program at elementary schools throughout the region. Another program, the Healthy School Challenge rewards middle and high school students for participating in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. A particular emphasis is placed on outreach to underserved schools in our region by offering grants and support to encourage participation in our programs.
The Sports Backers have been providing scholarships to area student athletes since our inception. In 2012, we provided $67,000 in scholarship funds to area student athletes. We also provided recognition and financial awards for the top high school athletic teams and the “comeback athletes” of the year.
Achieving Equity for Active Communities
Many residents in our region do not have access to safe places to walk, run or play in their neighborhoods. This inequitable distribution contributes to the higher risk of negative health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes that are associated with a lack of physical activity. For this reason there is a particular urgency to focus our efforts on improving access to places for physical activity as well as increasing opportunities for individuals to participate in physical fitness programming.
The Sports Backers now provide income-based entry rates for our training programs. We have also established training locations within underserved neighborhoods in the community. In the future, we plan to seek funding opportunities to establish fitness centers that can be used by both schools and the general public in parts of our community were access to these types of facilities are not readily available.