Program: Ashleigh Bachert – Durham Sports Commission

I took a look at the Durham Sports Commission’s website in preparation for writing this and noted that besides our speaker, Executive Director and Rotarian Ashleigh Bachert, the Durham Rotary Club is very involved. Rotarian Ingrid Wicker-McCree the Athletic Director at NCCU, and honorary member Dan Hill, who introduced Ashleigh are both on the board. Also on the board is former member Bill Kalkhof, the retired President of Downtown Durham Inc. Rotarians Shelly Green, the current head of Discover Durham and her successor Susan Amey were there at the meeting. Discover Durham nursed the Commission into existence and currently shelters and otherwise supports it. No doubt the city and county officials in attendance had a roll as well.

Ms. Bachert must have taken lessons from Kalkhof, whose updates on Downtown Durham were rapid fire and jammed with statistics and other facts that were impossible to summarize in these program write-ups.

Even if you didn’t know it already, the genesis of the Sports Commission in Discover Durham was pretty obvious with its emphasis on attracting sporting events to Durham to bring fans into town to spend their money and enjoy all of our attractions. Sports tourism is what Ms. Bachert called it.

Dan Hill introduced Ashleigh Bachert

To illustrate how this happens, Ms. Bachert went through an example of what it would cost a family to have an 11-year-old to play basketball competitively…it added up to about $20,000 annually. This would have shocked my father, whose primary investment for me when I was playing high school sports was fifty cents per practice for the two root beers from the drink machine that I would chug afterwards. If it was going to cost him even the 60’s equivalent of $20K I would have had to have been satisfied with a plywood backboard in the yard and a free library card.

It is estimated that this sports tourism industry is worth over $11.4 B annually in this country and growing. To promote it and get a larger slice of it, many cites are forming sports commissions, especially in the southeast where there are over 300 of them.

In Durham the highlights were the ACC Baseball Championship and Fanfest, the Inaugural RDC Marathon and Half-marathon, the DBAP Gaming Challenge, the Awarding of the 2019 USA Track & Field Youth Outdoor Championship, the US Tennis Association NC 40 and over State Championship awarded for 2019-2020 and the completion of a facility assessment and marketing study.

The actual economic impact for 2017-2018 was $28.1M, 28,966 room nights 113,723 event attendees and 41 events supported. Booked in the same period was another $44M, 56K room nights and 32 new events.

Ms. Bachert is a Durham native and graduate of Northern High School. She went north to play varsity softball that the University of Connecticut as a left-handed catcher. For more information about the Commission, their website is

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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