The Greater Washington Sports Alliance

Carla Peay | 8/27/2009, 8:28 a.m.

Sneakerball, and More

Washington, D.C. is sometimes called an event town rather than a sports town, but through the efforts of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA), the District is becoming one of the top destinations for hosting world class events.

GWSA was founded to support the District bid to attract the Olympic Games, and is continuing their role as a sports bid entity.

€We have a four tiered mission. Essentially, we want to bring D.C. up to the same level as a sports town as Boston or Chicago. We are trying to attract major sporting events here, like the Army-Navy game, the NCAA Frozen Four, [and] the International Police and Fire games,€ said Keri Ann Meslar, GWSA€s Director of Development.

GWSA also supports the local professional teams, including helping the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis franchise with their championship weekend, as well as the Washington Nationals in their bid to bring Major League Baseball€s All Star Game to Nationals Park.

€We get the word out to other tourism communities and other cities that this is the place to be by hosting world class events, like the Sun Trust National Marathon,€ Meslar said.
€The reason we do all this is to benefit the community. We try to make sure that every event we do has an impact on the people that live in this area.€

GWSA has a grant system that goes into youth charities that use sports to enhance the lifestyles of the children. The programs are designed to teach and instill healthy lifestyles and exercise into the day to day lives of the students in the District and surrounding communities.

€There is a lot going on in D.C. If you could take the amount that we€re doing in sports and put it in any other city, it would shine, but just because we have so many big things, like politics, D.C. is just bursting at the seams. It€s an important part of the balance in this community and having an outlet for everybody. That€s one of the magical things about sports. You see people from all different types of backgrounds able to come together and cheer for the same team,€ Meslar said.

One of GWSA€s most well known events is Sneakerball, their annual fundraiser. Sneakerball, the marquis event to celebrate sports in D.C. and benefits the GWSA Foundation, is comprised of six local charities. The event has expanded from the Hall of Champions Awards to an ESPY style awards show. Sneakerball, which will be held this year on Tue., Sept 15 at the National Building Museum in Northwest, is expected to attract as many 1,000 people, including 80 corporate sponsors, and 50 professional athletes.
€Sneakerball was only really known to the professional community. We wanted to open it up for the public to get involved. We will have cheerleaders, marching bands, mascots. It€s not a not a boring gala,€ Meslar said.

GWSA also works closely with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (DCSEC) which manages the venues for the various events GWSA works to bring to the District.

€Any tour stop or event that comes to the U.S. has got to come to D.C. This is the nation€s capital. GWSA does so much to bring attention to diversity and the quality of life in D.C.,€ said Lou Holder, GWSA€s director of Communications and Public Relations.

€People come from all over the world to come to that [National] mall just to see the museums. Events happen here, that include sports. GWSA works to bring pride and economic impact to this area,€ Holder said.

The SunTrust National Marathon and Half Marathon is one of several events te Greater Washington Sports Authority sponsors in the District. Courtesy Photo
GWSA€s mission is to find the right fit for the right event. They present bids to the governing committees for each event they propose bringing to the District, and work with their corporate partners to find the right sponsors for each event.

€People know what they want their event to look like, and they are looking for the right match. It€s all about marketing it the right way. We get the corporate population behind us to support the bid process. When we€re successful we see those dollars coming back into our community,€ Meslar said.

GWSA owns several major events, including the Sun Trust National Marathon, and is bringing to town several other marquis events, including the D.C. Police and Fire Games, an international event with over 10,000 athletes, and the Army-Navy Game in 2011. They are hosting a 5K in the Reston Town Center in October and a Volleyball Tournament during President€s Day weekend.

€What GWSA is doing to lift the morale of this region through the avenue of sports is unparalleled in any other city,€ Holder said. €Sports are the great equalizer.€

For more information about GWSA, and to vote for the Sneakerball awards, visit www.gwsportsalliance.com.