Workshops, session and networking events are all part of what makes the US Sports Congress so unique. Our lineup of top-notch professional presenters are sure to enlighten, engage and inspire you and your team.

2019 Speakers

STEVE HILL

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER/PRESIDENT @

LAS VEGAS CONVENTION & VISITORS AUTHORITY

Inside Sport Conversation

Steve Hill is the Chief Executive Officer/President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the destination marketing organization that promotes and attracts tourism, conventions, meetings and special events to Las Vegas and throughout Southern Nevada. The LVCVA also owns and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).

 

Under Mr. Hill’s leadership, the LVCC is currently undergoing a $980 million expansion as well as the development of the Convention Center Loop, a first-of-its kind underground transportation system in partnership with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, which will whisk convention attendees throughout the 200-acre campus in less than two minutes. The convention center expansion, scheduled for completion in December, will add 1.4 million additional square feet of exhibition and meeting space to the existing campus for a total of 4.6 million square feet throughout the entire facility. 

Mr. Hill also serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Travel Association, the national advocacy association that represents the travel and tourism industry. Mr. Hill also serves as chair of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, having overseen the construction of the nearly $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders.  
 

TERRENCE THORNTON

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR@

SPECIAL OLYMPICS NEVADA

Workshop

Terrence Thornton is the executive director for Special Olympics Nevada, a statewide nonprofit organization that offers free year-round training and competition programs for 3,253 athletes, who compete in more than 60 competitions in 10 sports annually. Special Olympics Nevada promotes inclusion through Unified Sports and leadership training, bringing together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to play as teammates.

 

In his role, Thornton is leading efforts to expand the organization’s financial base; further enhance inclusive programming for people with intellectual disabilities; as well as establish Special Olympics Nevada as an independent chapter

ARNIE GiGEORGE

EXEC. CREATIVE

DIRECTOR@

R & R PARTNERS

Session 3

New Agency Animal

What is a new agency animal? What is Arnie? He is the former executive creative director of R&R Partners and, sometimes, still is executive creative director. Other times, he is a creative strategist, and still other times, he’s just a problem solver … someone good to have in the room. In other words, he wears many hats. He wears a few of those hats for Las Vegas and What happens here, stays here. He helped develop the world-famous campaign creatively and strategically. He was also instrumental in the 1 October crisis response. His work has been recognized by the One Show, Communication Arts, Cannes, and the usual award suspects. And he still works daily on the account.

He has been a part of, or has overseen, most of the work that’s done at R&R Partners, including campaigns for Las Vegas, Allegiant Air, Blockchains, LLC, numerous hotels and resorts, Busch Gardens, and many more clients, in everything from power to hard drives to heath care. One of the things that makes Arnie hard to classify, and helped create his wild, new title, is his diverse background in the business. From copywriting and storytelling, to branding, media buying and account services, he has done it all … which is incredibly rare for a creative guy. 

What else makes Arnie unique for a creative? He loves to listen to consumers, immerse with them, and touch them emotionally with the work. He knows that emotional connection is what makes a great brand.

But, if you really want to try and understand this new agency animal, you’ll have to enter his habitat. It’s filled TO THE BRIM with books, objects, packaging, wine, toys, cards … ANYTHING THAT INSPIRES. Feel free to feed him. He is always hungry.  

LAWRENCE EPSTEIN

SR. EXECUTIVE VP & CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER @

ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Inside Sport Conversation

Lawrence Epstein serves as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of UFC, the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization and one of the fastest growing sports brands in the world.

Epstein is responsible for all global business operations and for managing the company’s overall performance and growth.  Over the years, he has spearheaded the regulatory efforts for UFC, gaining approval in countries around the world, including most recently France. 

Epstein has also played a leadership role in negotiating UFC’s most significant business deals, including the company’s landmark media rights agreements with ESPN and FOX Sports and the sale of UFC to Endeavor, recognized as the largest sale of a sports property in history. 

A life-long resident of Nevada, Epstein has been involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations. In 2016, he was named to the board of directors of the National Fitness Foundation, the official charity of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, which develops corporate partnerships to expand youth sport participation in America.  In January 2017, he was named a charter member and Vice Chair of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board of directors, which owns and oversees the city’s new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion dollar-stadium, home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.  

Epstein holds a Juris Doctorate and a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University and serves on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and the Vanderbilt Law School Board of Advisors.  
 

D. J. ALLEN

CEO & FOUNDER @

Xs & Os of Success

Session 2

D.J. Allen has combined his love for business with his passion for sports. Allen is the founder of Xs & Os of Success – a leadership, organizational and professional development company which uses the platform of sports and its teachings to help individuals and teams maximize their potential in business and life. He serves as a performance & communication coach for business leaders, sports teams, coaches and athletes throughout the nation. He has worked with first round draft picks as well as All-Americans at both the college and prep levels. 

 

In addition to his role as a performance coach with business leaders and athletes, Allen has served as a keynote speaker/leadership presenter for such organizations as: Life is Beautiful, Vegas Golden Knights, American Cancer Society, Utah Jazz, MGM Resorts International, IMG College, Buffalo Wild Wings, BNY Mellon and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

KEVIN BAGGER

VICE PRESIDENT@

THE LVCVA RESEARCH CENTER

Session 3

Kevin Bagger is Vice President of the Research Center for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). 
 
A lifelong Las Vegan, Mr. Bagger grew up immersed in tourism and has administered marketing programs for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) since the mid-1990s.  
 
Mr. Bagger monitors local, national and global market trends of the tourism and convention industries, and assesses Southern Nevada visitor behaviors and characteristics to steer strategy and messaging across the disciplines of sales, marketing, advertising, PR and convention center operations.  
 
A proud graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Mr. Bagger has served on several industry boards and committees including the board of directors of the Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA), the research council for the Center for Exhibit Industry Research (CEIR), the research sub-committee of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and the Destinations Council board of advisors for the U.S. Travel Association.

TODD GILLINS

VICE PRESIDENT RESEARCH@

R & R PARTNERS

Session 3

When it comes to understanding human behavior and motivation, Todd is a research maestro, having spent the last two decades directing an experienced and innovative research team dedicated to helping clients uncover new revelations about their brands. The best evidence that we aren't overstating is the gleaming David Ogilvy Award that he won for creation of a trademarked metric platform that measures the success of an advertising campaign, to effectively judge if and how brand messaging moved the needle.

 

Rather than taking an assembly-line approach to research, Todd looks at each challenge as a unique opportunity to discover new perceptions, identify barriers and better understand attitudes and motivators, drilling down to the rational and emotional connections that drive choice. His portfolio of quantitative, qualitative and secondary research projects spans domestic and international markets in sectors as varied as banking, health care, travel and tourism, gaming, retail, entertainment, utilities, education, theme parks, insurance, election campaigns, ballot initiatives and, well, many more, but you get the picture.

RUSS YURK

PRESIDENT @

129 SPORTS

Round Table 1

Russ Yurk is president of 129 Sports, an Indianapolis-based sports consulting firm, in business since 2015. 

 

A 25-year veteran of sport event and project management, highlights of Russ’ career include the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.  More recently, after spending eight years at the NCAA managing five different championships, Russ worked with the 2017 World Rowing Championships and USA Football. 

 

Russ is currently supporting the NCAA in managing its next host site selection process as well as USA Baseball serving as the tournament director for 2021 U-18 Baseball World Cup. 

Russ received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his MBA with a sport management concentration from Robert Morris University. 

KRIS SMITH

PARTNER@

THE COLLECTIVE BEST

Round Table 2

Kris’s passion to teach urban planning and development turned into a hand’s on career when he transitioned his love for community outreach into a compelling role with the Hampton Virginia Visitors Bureau, forging his craft in tourism and hospitality, heading up Sports Hampton.  He accelerated that passion in Detroit where he spent the better part of a decade in leadership roles with the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, most recently as the Director of the Detroit Sports Commission.

He led the efforts to secure and host national championships for the DMCVB with USA Volleyball, USA Fencing and USA Taekwondo, and hosted the National Association of Sports Commissioners, where he has also served in various board capacities, and advisory roles with Pure Michigan Sports and AAU.

Smith cemented his ability to recruit world-class events when he led Detroit’s bid to secure the 2019 U.S. National Figure Skating Championship, an event not seen in Detroit since the infamous Nancy Kerrigan attack at Cobo Arena in 1994.  He founded KBS Sports Strategies to augment his efforts in bid planning, feasibility studies, audits, human resources and his ever-burgeoning desire to build and grow urban communities.
 

KEVIN SMITH

PARTNER@

THE COLLECTIVE BEST

Round Table 2

Kevin is the CEO of OnPoint Sports Strategies LLC, a tourism and sports marketing advisory company in St. Petersburg Florida.  He has 20 years of experience in the sports event and tourism market through national and international affiliations.  Under his leadership as Director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the sports commission the organization hosted more than 130 events and had an annual economic impact of more than $43 million dollars. 

Kevin served on the National Association of Sports Commissions’ Board of Directors for 9 years, and was elected by the membership to the position as Chairman of the Board in 2014. 

For 30 years, Kevin has been associated with the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.  He was selected to the Board of Directors in 1992 and currently still holds a position. 
 

MIKE CHANDLER

PARTNER@

THE COLLECTIVE BEST

Round Table 2

Mike forged his sports and events career as a grass-roots event director with USA Volleyball, and vaulted his passion for solution-oriented programs into an award-winning career, spanning over 30 years.  His succession of innovative ideas and national tournament programming for juniors and adults yielded success as a senior executive with the USAV governing body, where he led the landmark development of the Junior Olympic Championships, USA Volleyball National Team development of international tournaments, and the USAV National Championships.

He leveraged his two-decade success with USAV to form Altitude Event Consulting as a sports marketing solutions-based firm that excels in developing multi-market and multi-event platforms to assist Rights Holders/ and Event Organizers, CVB’s and Sports Commissions in creating both positive events and positive investments in their communities.

Chandler is industry-recognized for his extensive large-scale event expertise, including detailed bid-to-reconciliation processes, event refresh and re-organization, revenue development, venue and site feasibility assessments, and development of local and regional event strategies.

RAVI RAJCOOMAR

PARTNER@

THE COLLECTIVE BEST

Round Table 2

Ravi is a recognized leader in the experiential event, content and athlete marketing space. He has created and produced Emmy award-winning sports marketing experiences, events and broadcasts on six continents for nearly every major action and adventure sport, from Red Bull’s live broadcast properties to the X Games and both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
 
His experience has helped lead some of the world’s best athletes, brands, and organizations to deeper engagement with their audience. Highlighted clients include Red Bull, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, BMC Software, Polaris, Specialized, CAA, USOC/IOC, Toshiba, Wasserman, Seagate, William Morris,  Zipp, Niner, IMG, Cannondale, Octagon, Clif Bar, Wells Fargo, Jeep, ESPN, several NGBs, and multiple state and regional DMOs..
 
Rajcoomar specializes in delivering the complete audience experience.  His consultative approach and ability to bring leaders together has yielded some of the most impactful sports and entertainment campaigns in the industry.  He also leads a successful executive coaching practice and mastermind for high achievers built on his Hero Maker and Moment of Glory axioms.

PATRICK HIGGINS

MANAGING DIRECTOR@

CONNECT MEETINGS

Round Table 4

Patrick Higgins, Vice President at Connect, spent over a decade in various CVB sales capacities in Reno-Tahoe, Palm Springs (California), and Salt Lake City.  In 2009, he left the CVB world to assist organizations such as the Department of Defense, USA Volleyball, USA Fencing, and the National Senior Games with their meeting & events.  In 2012 he joined the Connect executive team to launch Connect Sports Marketplace, magazine, and digital media platform. In 2016 Higgins was tasked with leading Connect’s meetings & events portfolio which has grown from 3 annual events to over 44 scheduled events in 2020.  Connect events attract over 5,000 planners and 7,000 hoteliers, CVBs, and service providers annually.  

 

In his current role, Higgins assists destination marketing organizations in the successful design and implementation of business development strategies, planner focus groups, hospitality advocacy campaigns and more. 

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