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The Bahamas Bowl coming in December 2014!

  • From left, Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky; Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher; National Sports Authority (NSA) Deputy Chairman Anton Sealey; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Harrison Thompson; Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson; Complete Sports Management President Lea Miller; President and Managing Director of Atlantis George Markantonis; Marketing Executive in the Sports Tourism Department of the Ministry of Tourism Jeff Rodgers; Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson and Sports Tourism Director in the Ministry of Tourism Greg Rolle.

SHELDON LONGLEY
Guardian Sports Editor
slongley@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 15, 2013

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A collaboration between The Bahamas government, the Atlantis Resort, Complete Sports Management and five collegiate conferences in the United States, could very well bring the biggest sports tourism event in The Bahamas, to date, to these shores.

Up to 10,000 visitors could be coming to The Bahamas for the inaugural “The Bahamas Bowl”, a post-season NCAA Division I football game, set for December 2014. The proposed game will be held at the new 15,000-seat capacity Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, during the week leading up to Christmas Day 2014.

Lea Miller from Complete Sports Management said that they’re excited to stage this event, and have the utmost confidence that it will be very successful.

“Bridges connect people, passion and possibilities, and we are here to continue to build a bridge to the future of sports tourism here in The Bahamas,” said Miller in a special press conference to launch the event yesterday. “We want this to be more than a college football bowl game. We want to create community events, by allowing the bowl game to engage the Bahamian community. We want to preserve the fabric of the country, and make sure that the locals have the opportunity to come out and enjoy the event as well. We have absolute confidence in The Bahamas. This is a team effort – we’re all in this together,” she added.

The highly anticipated event will be the only current collegiate football bowl game played outside the United States of America, and the third outside the U.S. in history. The International Bowl was played in Toronto, Canada from 2007-2010, and the first international bowl game, the Bacardi Bowl, was played in Cuba on January 1, 1937.

“We’re banking on the heels of the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ tournament,” said Miller, whose company is responsible for the staging and promotion of that event as well. “Atlantis in 2014 is a partner for both events, and we want to thank them as well as the Bahamian government for believing in this vision and investing in this event to make it a reality. We are honored to partner with this great nation as this journey continues. The best is yet to come.”

According to reports, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and Conference USA (C-USA) will headline the inaugural bowl game next year, but five conferences in total will be represented in a six-year cycle starting in 2014. The original contract runs through the 2019 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) season.

MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said that his conference is proud to be a part of this event, and he has no doubt that The Bahamas Bowl will cement The Bahamas’ reputation as the premier collegiate sports destination, not just in the Caribbean, but in the entire world for many years to come.

“The Bahamas has all the necessary ingredients for a successful American collegiate bowl game – fine facilities, a premier tourist destination and a community and country that is rich in tradition, history and culture,” said Dr. Steinbrecher. “We have a chance to do something special here. We look at this as an opportunity to expose the young men and women who travel here to a country that they have probably never seen before, a chance to absorb the rich culture here in The Bahamas. If we do not take advantage of the history and culture of The Bahamas and integrate it into the bowl game, we would not have fulfilled the unique and meaningful opportunity in front of us,” he added.

C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky shared those same sentiments.

“It’s wonderful when you have an idea and you see that idea become a reality. There are three main things that you would need to stage a successful bowl game – a great destination, wonderful hotels and a great venue. The intangible is the community which bonds around the event and make it something terrific. All of the ingredients are here,” said Banowsky. “We in Conference USA have had the opportunity to participate in the ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’ since its inception. Through participation, student-athletes and coaches will experience the culture of The Bahamas, and take back with them memories that they will have for the rest of their lives. This is a historic day, and one that we are certainly proud to be a part of.”

The other conferences involved in the historic undertaking are the Mountain West Conference (MWC), the American Athletic Conference (The American) and the Sun Belt Conference. Through the five conferences, up to 65 universities could be represented, covering every geographical location in the U.S.

MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said that as a result of this historic game, The Bahamas and sports can be intertwined together certainly for the next six years, and hopefully forever. The Mountain West Conference has been represented in 56 bowl games since its inception in 1999.

“We started bowl games in a number of cities and would love to start one here in The Bahamas as well,” said Thompson. “We consider ourselves pioneers but the bowl games that we have started could very well take a back seat to a bowl game here in The Bahama. There is a great opportunity here. This is a beautiful country, and it is going to be a fantastic event. We look forward to a great event for many years to come,” he added.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson said through the Ministry of Tourism, the number one goal is to make The Bahamas, the number one sports-tourism destination in the world in the next 10 years.

“Last year, 28 percent of people in North America traveled for sports related activities, and they didn’t come alone. We’re looking to build bridges, and through that, we can transform spaces, places and perhaps people,” said the minister. “We hope to have a huge impact on people’s lives through the engagement of an activity called sports, and many other positive things. We want to open up the discussion in the context of national development. Number one, we’re trying to build a championship attitude in this country. Number two, we want to play with the best players on the planet, and number three, we want to build bridges. We’re engaging everyone in the region with this place called The Bahamas. We congratulate the conferences involved and Complete Sports Management for looking at us as a destination, and we applaud your vision for picking this place at this particular time. Something very special is about to happen in this country in the next several years,” he added.

Representing the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who is out of the country, tourism permanent secretary Harrison Thompson said this bowl game is a venture that will garner great benefits for The Bahamas and the Bahamian youth for a number of years to come.

“We’re focussed on sports from the touristic standpoint. We’re committed to The Bahamas becoming the sports-tourism capital of the world,” said Thompson. “We hope that at the end of the day, we will have more than just NCAA football coming to The Bahamas, but other NCAA sports as well. We’re doing everything that we can to accommodate all the sporting entities that want to come to The Bahamas. We can see the future being very bright for all of us. Sports-tourism in The Bahamas is moving to the next level. This is going to be a catalyst for our young people to have the opportunity to be scouted to play football in the U.S., and a chance for us to improve the tourism product here in The Bahamas through sports tourism for the next six years, and hopefully forever.”

Speaking on behalf of National Sports Authority (NSA) Chairman Leroy Archer, Deputy Chairman Anton Sealey said they are very excited to play host to a major NCAA Division I football game here in The Bahamas, and they are confident that the venue, the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, will prove to be a worthy home for event.

“We assure the conference commissioners that they will find a cooperative staff and a venue that is fully equipped and prepared with all that is required to stage this marquee event,” said Sealey. “We look forward to working with all of the stakeholders over the course of the next 12 months to ensure the utmost success of this event.”

Complete Sports Management President Lea Miller said that a television partner will be announced in the coming months, along with various sponsors.


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