By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas is poised for a “banner year” in sports tourism in 2017, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture said yesterday, telling this newspaper: “We’ve never seen anything like this in our history.”
Speaking with Tribune Business ahead of the third annual Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, set for today at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium, Dr Daniel Johnson said this nation has “10 years’ worth of business lined up”.
“We have never seen anything like this in our history. We are positioned to really become the number one signature destination for sports tourism,” said Dr Johnson.
“We have completed the first phase of our rebranding of Sports in Paradise, trying to make the Bahamas the number one sports tourism destination in the region, but also number one in the world at hosting the small, boutique signature events. We are going to be the best at that.
“We will show it with the IAAF World Relays, we will show it with the Popeyes Bowl, the Tiger Woods event, then next year we will show it with the World Cup Beach Soccer FIFA signature event and the Commonwealth Youth Games.”
He added: “We have so much to come; track and field, boxing, judo, Carifta and the swimming championships. We’re working on three stadiums at the same time. We have the national baseball stadium coming, the beach soccer and beach volleyball stadiums coming, and the Moore’s Island National Sports Academy coming. Next Spring all those will be ready.”
Dr Johnson said that while the Bahamas attracts major sporting events and activities, it must also match this with increased hotel room inventory, infrastructure, better service and more cultural offerings.
“The next phase of what I am going to do is focused on Bahamian ownership. Next year I’m going to be pushing for young Bahamian owners to own professional sporting franchises that are going to come and be home in our national stadium,” he added.
“We’re looking for professional beach soccer franchises owned by young bahamian groups. We’re looking for professional beach volleyball branches owned by young Bahamian groups, AAA Basketball and baseball owned by Bahamian groups.
“After the Popeyes Bowl the guys will be here to begin talks for the first United Soccer League (USL) franchise outside of the United States ever in the Bahamas.”