Sports tourism director steps in

A Columbus native has the task of continuing to growing the booming sports-tourism industry in Bartholomew County.

Ike DeClue, 38, has been hired as director of sports tourism at the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

Attendance at tourist-oriented special events in 2016 grew 56 percent from the prior year, the visitors center reported. Athletic competition in sports such as golf, baseball, softball, soccer and swimming drew 146,932 sports-related visitors to Bartholomew County in 2016.

Sports tourists spent about $10 million in Bartholomew County in 2016, up from $8.8 million the year before. The visitors center also estimated the economic ripple effect — including a dollar spent at one business being spent elsewhere — at $16 million.

When the visitors center began its sports initiative in 2004, Columbus and Bartholomew County hosted 21 sporting events, while nearly 90 sporting events were conducted last year in Bartholomew County.

DeClue said more growth should be on the horizon.

Attracting lesser-known sports tournaments such as pickleball or cricket could be a new area of focus, DeClue said.

DeClue said he looks forward to bridging any gaps that exist and plans to work with the city’s parks and recreation department in helping attract sporting events to Columbus. He also wants to recruit new organizations to the city, he said.

“The objective is that anyone who comes to town, we want them to have a great time and return next year,” DeClue said. “Columbus has a pretty long history of its citizens being able to work together and get things accomplished.”

DeClue has experience in the hospitality business and media sales.

“Ike’s experience in sales coupled with his wide-reaching network of relationships in the community makes him the ideal individual for this role,” said Karen Niverson, executive director of the visitors center. “Columbus has had tremendous success as a sports tourism destination and we’re eager to see how Ike will lead efforts to increase capacity and grow this segment of our business.”

DeClue replaces Eric Marvin, who resigned in August to become executive director of the Evansville Sports Corp.

Ike DeClue

Age: 38

Hometown: Columbus

Family: Married to wife Kelsey; they have two children, 4-year-old Evey and 5-year-old Nolan

Education: Graduated from Columbus East High School and earned a bachelor’s degree at Indiana University,

Employment history: Worked at family’s Tre Bicchieri restaurant in downtown Columbus for 10 years as a manager. He was also employed at AIM Media Indiana, parent company of The Republic, for two-and-a-half years as a digital media specialist

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or