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Sam Stark Named Executive Director, Chicago Sports Commission

CHICAGO - The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) today unveiled a strategic expansion of the organization by naming Sam Stark as Executive Director of the newly created Chicago Sports Commission (CSC). Stark, 42, most recently served as President and CEO of the Orlando-based Central Florida Sports Commission (CFSC), the non-profit, private organization charged with attracting global events and sports-related business and activities to Central Florida.

The CSC, led by a 19-member Advisory Board is charged with securing sports and recreational events for the Chicago area to help drive overnight hotel stays particularly during slower months and need periods. Stark will serve as a first point of contact for all sporting event organizers interested in Chicago.

"The formation of the Chicago Sports Commission is essentially sports tourism through economic development. Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics was an important first step in raising the awareness of Chicago, especially overseas. Sam knows what it takes to build upon the awareness of the destination, ultimately resulting in increased visitation," said Don Welsh, CCTB President and CEO." Chicago is known for its unmatched arts, culture, shopping, dining, theater and entertainment options, yet we haven't yet capitalized on the lucrative sports tourism market whereby we can compete regionally and nationally and internationally for amateur and professional athletic competitions."

During his time at the CFSC Stark's aggressive and targeted efforts resulted in 98 sporting events for the area resulting in 160,000 hotel room nights and more than $100 million in economic impact. Additionally, Stark created the first-ever Sports Club membership program that attracted more than 50 corporate members in its first year resulting in $50,000 in new revenue for the CFSC.

"Our efforts are focused on creating a new source of economic development for the city through sporting events," said John Murray, CSC Chairman. "Sam has the experience, the energy and the creativity to make this effort a success from the very beginning."

"Chicago already has the infrastructure required to attract amateur and professional sporting events," said Stark. "With some of the nation's finest sports facilities, the features of a global destination, including a diverse selection of hotels at every price point, Chicago offers the perfect platform to launch premier sports and recreational events. I'm honored to lead this exciting effort to grow and developing Chicago's sports industry."

Prior to leading the CFSC, Stark was successful in turning the financially underachieving Winter Park, FL Chamber of Commerce into a profitable, vibrant and relevant membership organization. He has held previous leadership roles with destination and sports marketing organizations, including Mainstreet Marketing, Sports Partners and Florida Citrus Sports.

Stark will report to Don Welsh. He will officially begin his new role on October 18, 2011.

The Chicago visitor industry is directly responsible for 124,000 jobs resulting in $616 million in tax revenue that supports education, healthcare, public safety and other public services and $11.1 billion in direct spending by visitors on food, entertainment, transportation and shopping.

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