FOUR QUESTIONS: A CONVERSATION WITH…SCOTT DUPREE
Scott Dupree is the executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, responsible for promoting Raleigh and Wake County as a premier destination for sporting events. The GRSA, along with other entities in Wake County, have worked closely with the NCHSAA in the corporate partnership arena for years. A 1986 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in journalism, Scott also worked for 11 years in collegiate athletics at Arizona State, Notre Dame and UNC. He and his family live in Apex.
Why is the North Carolina High School Athletic Association relationship important to the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance?
That’s an easy one. The City of Raleigh is a long-time and strong partner of the NCHSAA. The City is proud to host more NCHSAA championships (12) than any other city in North Carolina. It’s a point of pride here, and we love the fact that student-athletes in all 100 N.C. counties start the school year with the goal of “getting to Raleigh” or “winning a state title in Raleigh.” There’s a lot of value in that for us, particularly as the Capital City.
At the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, we make a point of establishing partnerships and relationships with first-class organizations that run first-class events. And the NCHSAA obviously meets that qualification. NCHSAA championships are exactly the kind of events we like to host in our community. There’s the economic impact factor, of course, but in all honesty that is secondary to the fact that these are quality events that are healthy and wholesome, focusing on sportsmanship and fair play, and that represent everything that is good about sports. And the championships provide incredible opportunities and experiences – and lifelong memories – for these young students who will be the future leaders in cities and towns throughout our state. For all of those reasons, the GRSA is incredibly proud to be a partner of the NCHSAA.
What are some other organizations and events that Raleigh has worked with in the past several years?
Whew, that’s a more difficult question, only because there are so many. The GRSA typically works with about 75 to 100 events per year in one capacity or another. That could include bidding for and securing an event, helping to host an event, or just providing basic services for an event. We work with tournaments, championships and special events of all kinds and all sizes. This ranges from NHL events, like All-Star Weekend, to collegiate and high school events, and non-stop youth events. It’s the NHL and NCAA events that tend to get all of the interest and media attention, but it’s the youth and amateur sports that are the backbone of this industry in most markets, including Greater Raleigh. These are the events that fill sports venues, hotels, restaurants and retail stores weekend and after weekend after weekend, in all parts of Wake County. And they are all important to us, as every event, whether large or small, has a positive economic and quality-of-life impact in our community. To answer your question, following is a small, random sampling of events (of varying size and scope) that we have been involved with in recent years. In each instance, the GRSA’s role varies. Sometimes we were responsible for bringing the event to Greater Raleigh. In other instances, we assisted with a bid. For some events, we are deeply involved with planning and hosting, while other times we play a smaller role by simply providing general services.
Sampling of Upcoming Events in Greater Raleigh
ACC Men’s Soccer Championship
CASL visitraleigh.com National Soccer Series
Nike Cross National Southeast Regional (Cross Country)
Pop-Warner Mid-South Football & Cheerleading Championships
NCHSAA State Championships (12)
NCAA Men’s College Cup (Soccer)
Mid-Atlantic Power League Volleyball
USA Baseball National High School Invitational
State Games of North Carolina
USA BMX Tar Heel Nationals
Sampling of 2014 Events in Greater Raleigh
Great American Cross Country Festival
U.S. Lacrosse Southeast Regional
Senior Softball USA Eastern Nationals
USA Baseball Tournament of Stars
NCAA Baseball Division II World Series
NCHSAA State Championships (12)
Ironman 70.3 Raleigh
National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet
NCAA Men’s Golf Regional
Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon
Deep South Classic (girls’ basketball)
ACC Tennis Championships
NCAA Men’s Basketball 2nd/3rd Rounds
USA Racquetball National Intercollegiate Championships
USA Baseball Irish Classic
What are some of the prerequisites a location needs to become a premier destination for sporting events? What are some of the considerations?
First and foremost, you have to have top-notch venues and facilities. Without that, you won’t be hosting events any time soon. Secondly, it’s critical that you identify host organizations (a franchise, a college, a conference, a Parks & Rec department, a local club, a venue or facility, etc…) that is willing to host an event and that is fully capable and experienced at hosting events.
From the event owner or rights-holder perspective, here are the key factors that determine site selection for sporting events: (1) The financial model, which is of course the bottom line for so many things in our world today. The event owner wants to go to the city where he or she can secure the best financial package with the most favorable business model in terms of revenue/expenses; (2) Venues. The destination with the strongest sports facilities and the most accessible sports facilities will always have a tremendous advantage. The event owners want to put their athletes, spectators, fans, VIPs and sponsors into a first-class venue to give the event a first-class atmosphere; (3) Hotels. Having quality, quantity and convenience in your accommodations plan is always a crucial factor; (4) Geographic location combined with the convenience and cost of air travel, and accessibility via interstates and major highways. In other words, getting there should be easy, not a challenge; (5) Your event resume. Do you have an established track record of successfully hosting major events? If so, that is significant advantage on your side of the ledger. And (6) Everything Else. This includes climate to shopping and dining to family attractions and things to do.
What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them?
I played baseball and ran cross country at Wilson Hunt a long, long time ago, but it feels like yesterday. I was also the basketball statistician. I still have many special – and invaluable – memories from those days. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. And it wasn’t just the life lessons and the experiences that shaped me for the rest of my life, it was also the innocence and fun of playing high school sports. It was the friendships, the coaches, the practices, the bus trips. Now that I’m older, I can look back and realize just how blessed I was to be a high school athlete. A couple of random quotes that I will always remember: In cross country, our coach (James Kent) would send us out on eternal runs on the blacktops through the tobacco fields surrounding Hunt High in western Wilson County. I will can still hear Coach Kent saying, “Boys, today I just need 8 miles. Eight good, hard miles.” Of course it was late August and 3:30 in the afternoon and the temperature was a sweltering 98 degrees with a heat index of 110 on the asphalt, but off we went. And he would follow us around in his car to make sure we didn’t walk or take any shortcuts. Those days were brutal, but looking back I loved every moment. And in baseball, I remember my coach, Bob Pope, yelling at me as I was thrown at a first on a groundball to the left side, “Dupree! Son, you are slower than molasses going uphill in the winter.” Coach Pope was absolutely right, of course, and he always had a colorful way of making his point.
But I am now enjoying my greatest and most meaningful NCHSAA memories by watching my children, both of whom are playing sports for Apex High School. My son, Davis, played on the basketball team last spring that won the 4A state title. After 90 years of trying, it was the first basketball state championship in Apex history. Experiencing the team’s miraculous run through the tournament was unforgettable. My son and his teammates were – and still are – on cloud nine. In fact, now seven months later, I honestly don’t think a day goes by when we don’t talk that playoff run. I saw first-hand what big deal it was for the school and for the entire Apex community, and I love the fact that Davis will always have that experience and those memories. Every time he goes back to visit the school he can see the 2014 State Champs banner hanging in the gym. Of course, now would be a good time for Davis and his teammates to turn their attention and their focus to the 2015 season!
My daughter, Savannah, runs cross country and track for Apex. I cannot begin to describe how good this program is, a program built over the last 30 years by Coach Roy Cooper. Being a part of the Apex cross country and track family has defined Savannah’s high school career and shaped her very identity. Her life revolves around those teams – the friends, the practices, the meets, the pasta parties, the movie nights, the study sessions. And Coach Cooper is such a strong leader and role model – always motivating, always encouraging and always pushing the kids to reach their potential, while also finding time to impart his “life lessons.” When Savannah looks back on her high school career at Apex, it will be her cross country family that stands out above everything else. This is what NCHSAA sports is all about.