Bjork Speaks to Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- WKU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork spoke to the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau about how campus events help area hotels and restaurants.

The Bowling Green Daily News' Robyn L. Minor was on-hand, and below is a recap of Bjork's visit that appeared in Tuesday's newspaper.

WKU's Bjork speaks to visitors bureau

By Robyn L. Minor, The Daily News

Western Kentucky University Athletic Director Ross Bjork wants to extend partnerships in the community to include the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bjork, speaking to the CVB board Monday, said he recognizes that WKU and the CVB can mutually benefit when it comes to staging events at the university.

Bjork attended Monday after CVB members at a meeting a few months ago began questioning if WKU could lobby to bring back the Sun Belt Conference’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which are currently in Hot Springs, Ark.

“Whatever we can do to get the tournaments back here, let us know,” said Larry Bailey, chairman of the CVB.

But at this point, that’s not possible, Bjork said.

The conference is committed to keeping the tournaments in Hot Springs through 2013, then probably will look for neutral ground to start a community history for the tournaments.

But Bjork said the university is committed to using its campus and athletics facilities for other things, including the Kentucky High School Athletics Association’s Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl state championship games in December and the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 basketball tournament in 2011.

Bjork said WKU plans to have ambassadors on the sidewalks during the football games letting fans know where they can go to get warm while they are waiting for games. And they are working to improve the traffic flow in and out of campus for the events.

Such events help fill local hotel rooms and restaurants, and Bjork said the WKU athletics program helps as well.

“Big-time athletics help you,” he said.

Bjork said WKU has a winning reputation with each of its sports teams, including football, which is currently mired in a string of poor-performing seasons.

“Football, we recognize, has its struggles,” he said. “(Improvement) will happen ... there is just a process we have to go through to get there.”

Bjork said to broaden the university’s support and participation in its programs, WKU needs to go even further outside the Barren River region to places such as Owensboro and Nashville, where there are alumni. Bringing in supporters from outside the region could help fill hotel rooms.

In other matters, the board heard from sales director Duncan Hines that the GoodGuys Nostalgia Nationals won’t return to Bowling Green in 2011 for its October event.

“It had nothing to do with Bowling Green, though,” Hines said.

The organization canceled five or six drag racing events in 2011.

“The Bowling Green event was actually profitable for them,” he said. “So they are trying to see what kind of event they can work out for here.”

To make up for the loss, Hines is working to bring in a new motorcycle event for October.

“It wouldn’t be as large as GoodGuys, but it would bring 500 or so room nights,” Hines said.

Hines reported to the board that the motorcoach tour business into Bowling Green is picking up again, with several tours not only spending the day but the night in town.

“They are finding out there are more than enough things to do here for a day or two,” he said.