January 21, 2019

H. Scott Phelps | former President, Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau

H. Scott Phelps

Will H. Scott Phelps' retirement stick this time?

Phelps, who came out of retirement in 2014 to lead the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB) as president, retired again on Dec. 31. He previously served as president and chief executive of the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau for more than three decades.

As he leaves his position at CTCSB, Phelps notes that in fiscal 2018, the organization brought in close to $55 million in spending by visitors, which generated over $3.6 million in Connecticut taxes, an 8.6-to-1 return on the state Department of Economic & Community Development's investment in the bureau.

Looking back at his time leading CTCSB, Phelps said he is most proud of raising the organization's return on investment, building and diversifying the bureau's public-private partnerships and working to make the Hartford-based organization more relevant statewide.

Why are conventions and sporting events seen as a potent source of economic development?

Visitors to conventions, meetings and sports events spend lots of money — dollars that are earned elsewhere to be spent here. These are fresh new dollars to our state that will be spent multiple times, supporting hospitality industry jobs and generating substantial new Connecticut tax revenue.

In Connecticut, what do you see as the largest growth opportunities for sports venues, convention halls, etc.?

Event planners are attracted to Connecticut's location and demographics, since we are conveniently between New York City and Boston, with easy access from car, bus, train or plane.

More than 23.5 million people live within a 2.5-hour drive to our state's capital — a major selling point for conventions, trade shows and sporting events that need to draw participants and sell tickets. We also are seeing the establishment of creative new venues to meet the demand of growth sports: the four-court Oxford Pickleball takes advantage of the demand for more play space, and the 11-field Fastpitch Nation Park will open this spring in Windsor as the largest fastpitch softball complex in the Northeast.

Cities across the country have given large tax incentives to professional sports teams that build stadiums in their municipalities. Do you think these cities get a good return on that investment?

There are some models of stadium construction that have made sense, while others have not worked out as well, and it depends upon the individual community. I believe that the most important thing a professional sports franchise brings to a community is "pride of place."

If a city is the home of a professional team, it suggests that you have a certain infrastructure, capabilities and image. This is huge when working with promoters and planners as it conveys that you are at a level where you can handle meetings and events with ease, and it promotes new business growth as well.

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