House Bill 531 would create permanent new Sports Event Grant Fund


COLUMBUS (March 20, 2018) – Testifying in the Ohio Statehouse today, a historic collection of sports leaders from across Ohio urged legislators to approve House Bill 531, legislation that would create the Sports Event Grant Fund.


Co-sponsored by Representatives Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), House Bill 531 would enhance the ability of local governments and non-profits to attract and host major national and international sporting events. The bill was drafted in response to a request from the Greater Columbus and Cleveland Sports Commissions, which are advocating for a more reliable funding source to help attract major sporting events to Ohio.


“This legislation is about more than sports, it is about bringing economic activity to our State and making us more competitive with other states for these drivers of activity. We are creating a program that is self-sustaining. It’s a win-win,” said Representative Dave Greenspan.


The bill would change the manner in which Ohio’s existing sports grant program is funded, creating a new permanent Sports Event Grant Fund. Currently, grants are funded through appropriations by the Ohio General Assembly, limiting the ability to bid on sporting events outside of the current budget biennium. Under House Bill 531, half of the incremental increase in the state sales tax that is directly attributable to the sporting event would be diverted to the Sports Event Grant Fund to make grants under Ohio’s Major Sporting Event Grant Program, which was created in 2009.


Instead of one-off appropriations from the General Assembly, the Sports Event Grant Fund will create a permanent and reliable ongoing source of funds to pay for sports event expenses such as marketing, security and operations. House Bill 531 will help Ohio compete on a more level playing field for hosting such events.


David Gilbert, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, said “Securing the rights to host major sporting events – NCAA Championships, Olympic sport Championships, All-Star Games and the like – is a highly and increasingly competitive process.  More than 30 states offer support to help secure and offset expenses for these events, and not having a program like this puts Ohio cities at a competitive disadvantage.”

Linda Logan, Executive Director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, said “It is important for us to be aggressive when bidding on marquee sporting events for Ohio.  Competition is fierce, so we must continue to find advantages that set our destinations apart. The proposed state funding does that while also providing a great return on investment back to Ohio.” 

Comments from notable supporters of House Bill 531 include the following:

“We view this as not just a competitive advantage in securing the needed financing for these events, but a vital component of how we can continue to build on the great momentum that our region and state have created over the years.”

  • Nic Barlage, President of Business Operations, Cavaliers Operating Company

“Future opportunities exist to host special NHL events for our State, however opportunities for financial support such as provided in HB 531 are needed to take advantage of those opportunities.”

  • Mike Priest, President, Columbus Blue Jackets

“Cincinnati went 27 years between hosting All-Star Games. HB 531 would play a part in us hopefully not having to wait until 2042.”

  • Melissa Wideman, Vice President of Community Relations, Castellini Management Company, Owner of the Cincinnati Reds

“HB 531 will allow communities and organizations to bid on events farther into the future than currently possible. For example, the City of Cleveland bid on the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which we are excited to hold at Progressive field, in 2014.”

  • Dennis Lehman, Executive Vice President of Business, Cleveland Indians

“The golf event industry has experienced great success in partnering with States throughout the United States for events such as the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, US Open, PGA Championship and of course the Presidents Cup, which was held at Muirfield Village in 2013. HNS Sports Group and its industry peers will be much more successful in attracting large national and international events to the State of Ohio if we are able to include state financial support that HB 531 would provide.”

  • Dan Sullivan, Executive Director of HNS Sports Group (Memorial Tournament)

“The Browns, along with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, are bidding to host the 2019 or 2020 NFL draft. In its selection process, the NFL explicitly considers the availability of incentives such as that which HB 531 would provide. In my opinion, the passage of HB 531 would strengthen our bid and increase the likelihood that the NFL draft, one of the largest sporting events in the country, will be held in Northeast Ohio within the next two years.”

  • Dave Jenkins, Vice President and CFO, Cleveland Browns

“We pride ourselves on working well with other teams and support large community events as we see the benefit that these events have on the entire community.  Clippers games are family events… The Clippers will host both the Triple-A All-Star Game and the Triple-A National Championship Game this year. If in place, this bill would have greatly helped with planning for these events. It is our goal to continue to host these major sporting events in the future, which would be assisted with passage of this bill.”

       -     Ken Schnacke, President and General Manager, Columbus Clippers

“Cincinnati has been short listed as one of the potential host cities in North America for the bid filed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and is also a finalist for the 2019 Gold Cup. HB 531 will be a great tool in our pursuit of both events.”

  • Jeff Berding, President and General Manager of FC Cincinnati

“Ohio has a great track record executing major sporting events, as evidenced by the record attendance at the NCAA Wrestling Championships last week in Cleveland. This fund will help attract more events like the wrestling championships to great locations throughout Ohio.”

  • Carl Grassi, Chairman, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission

“Ohio has been a leader in the growth in lacrosse nationwide. In fact, US Lacrosse Magazine declared ‘2017 was Ohio’s Year in Lacrosse’. This increased exposure and growth has led to Ohio being considered for more national lacrosse events than ever before.  HB 531 will help bring these events to Ohio and will only further enhance the stature of Ohio within the lacrosse community.”

  • Ryan Chenault, Team President of Ohio Machine Lacrosse

“This issue is important to me/my organization because we are active in hosting NCAA championship events in the state of Ohio.  For instance, just last week the Mid-American Conference hosted the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, establishing both a record for overall attendance for the event and a single-session attendance record.” 

  • Jon Steinbrecher, Commissioner, Mid-American Conference

“Hoteliers know that the market for major sporting event opportunities is ultra-competitive, for good reason. At least 34 other states offer incentives to attract this business. HB 531 will help Ohio grow our economy”

  • Joe Savarise, Executive Director, Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association

"Central Ohio is winning marquee sporting events which positively impacts our region’s image and economy, while elevating the fan experience for our residents. Columbus and the Arena District have the great privilege of hosting the NCAA Women’s Final Four this month and the Triple-A Baseball All-Star and National Championship Games this summer. This fund is important to continuing the great momentum we have here in Columbus and around the state."

  • Brian J. Ellis, Chairman – Greater Columbus Sports Commission