CVB vs. Sports Commission in Big Rift

Diane McGraw may not be having the best of vacations, according to a memo she sent today to her board of directors on the Greater Louisville Sports Commission.

It was while on vacation that McGraw, executive director of the SC, learned that the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which provides financing for the Sports Commission, made a public announcement about a contract with a cycling championship that she was planning to make at a future date. But from reading McGraw’s letter (we have it below) there’s a lot more to her problems with the CVB and chief exec Jim Wood than jumping the gun on a media opp.

McGraw writes that there’s an ongoing rift in which she claims Jim Wood has exhibited “a lack of respect and consideration” for her group.

Oh yes, McGraw includes in her note the news that the PGA Championship is returning to Louisville. She’s upset that the CVB is apparently planning to announce this fact at the end of July at a luncheon that she’s had no involvement in. Yes, maybe I’m burying the news here, and we’ll get more info on that later.

Later in the lengthy piece, McGraw complains about her treatment at last year’s Ryder Cup, and explains that the situation is worse than anything she’s seen on other sports commissions in other cities. She concludes by promising that things are going to be different when she returns.

Larry Bisig, a founding vice president of the Sports Commission, said the tussle is a bad sign and could hurt the progress that’s been made in attracting millions of dollars to the city.  “The CVB and the Sports Commission need to be in lockstep,” Bisig said. “They need each other and somebody needs to get this fixed.”

The situation must be pretty bad for McGraw to send such a contentious letter to her board. It’s bound to get some reaction and the board is one of the largest and high-profile in the city. The Mayor was copied on it, too.

We called Wood to get a reaction just a few minutes ago, and will let you know when we get one. Meanwhile, here’s the juicy content from McGraw.

Read the Letter After the Jump…

Although I am away on vacation, I am taking this time to write to each of you to express my dismay regarding an incident that was brought to my attention yesterday, as well as the ongoing frustration we deal with regularly in our relationship with the CVB.

As you know, the sports commission recently hosted the US Masters Cycling Championships last week which brought 1,500+ athletes to Louisville for a week of competition.  In 2007, we negotiated a contract with them to bring the Championships here for two years and have cultivated a very good relationship with the staff and President of USA Cycling.

On Thursday evening, Greg Fante and I hosted the President, Steve Johnson and his wife at Churchill Downs and solidified an extension on our contract for another year.  Mr. Johnson related to us that due to the success of the event here in Louisville and because of the good relationship we have built with them and their confidence in the sports commission, he wanted to extend the contract for at least another year.  He also indicated that he would like to discuss a multi year contract, whereby we would host other USA Cycling events.   We agreed on a handshake and made a “quiet deal” with the intent of making a formal announcement next week when I returned from vacation.  We mutually decided to draft a press release this week and jointly make the announcement.

Yesterday, an announcement was made to the press that the event was coming back next year, which was done without any consultation, confirmation or consent of the sports commission.  The announcement was made by Jim Wood on behalf of the CVB.  We received word from USA Cycling that they were surprised that the announcement was made without their approval as it went against what we mutually agreed to do. This has put us in an embarrassing situation, in addition to having been, once again, disregarded in our role.

If this were an isolated incident, I would not be writing, but, once again, this demonstrates the lack of respect and consideration by Jim Wood for the sports commission.  It has been the climate that we, as staff, deal with on an ongoing basis and I have had to deal with since I assumed my position of the commission in 2007.

On numerous occasions, I have brought this to the attention to individuals who I thought could intercede, but was told to always take the high road.

There seems to be a hesitance to address this, because of our dependence on the CVB for funding, and now even more so, that they are our total source of funding.

Just recently, the CVB has had meetings with the PGA and is planning on making an important announcement at the end of this month that the PGA Championships will be returning to Louisville.  I was made aware of this by an hotelier a few weeks ago, yet the CVB, has yet to inform the commission, the “official sports agency” for the city and their partner that this was going to happen.  I received an invitation the other day, (which was part of a mass mailing to CVB members) that a luncheon was being hosted by the CVB with the special guest being the CEO of the PGA.  My assumption is that this is when they were planning to announce the return.  Again, a major sporting event is coming to town and the sports commission has no official knowledge of it.

When the Ryder Cup was in town last year, the CVB, City, State and GLI  had a two Chalets to entertain potential clients, (approximately 20 of those clients were sports industry leaders from all over the country;  many  were “our”  existing clients.)  The Sports Commission was not included in any of the invitations or given an opportunity to be part of the hosting of these sports clients throughout the week…   In fact, the only reason that I was able to attend the event and have access to the Chalets,  was through the generosity of a board member who offered me 4 tickets each day in their so we could invite any potential clients.

I also received 2 tickets, since I served as Chair of the Volunteer Committee for the Cup Experience.  However, these tickets were in another location, no where near the Chalets, where the high level entertaining was going on…  In defense of the city and state, they probably assumed that we were being taken care of by the CVB.

I could go on about the many instances that have left me wondering whether we are on the same team as the CVB whose missions are both to represent the city.  This relationship is very dysfunctional and it is not what I thought I signed up for when I took on this position and moved my family here to Louisville.  I am not going to go on and on here, because many people are aware of my frustrations and have known about them for quite some time.

When I was asked to represent this organization and be the spokesperson for the city in all of its sports efforts, I never imagined that I would be working in direct competition for the people who are supposed to be our biggest supporters.  Although some things have improved since the Mayor’s office stepped in last year, it continues to be a struggle.

In my career, I have run 3 other commissions in larger markets than Louisville, but have never experienced anything like this.  I have been around this industry for 20 years, served as the Chair of the National Association of Sports Commissions and was one of the founding directors, therefore, am very familiar with many of the organizations around the country.  I will say that others do experience frustrations with their CVB’s, as well.  Most of us are too dependent on the funding we receive from them and often times find ourselves at the mercy of individuals who must be afraid of our success for fear of “upstaging” or diminishing the role of the CVB.   Makes no sense to me, since we are all working for the same cause and a good working relationship only strengthens our results.

Some of these commissions have either folded their tents or have become sales depts. in the bureau, instead of becoming a thriving commission, whose mission goes well beyond room nights.  That is what a successful sports commission should look like and that is how the city should be served and represented.  Just recently, the St. Louis Sports Commission defected from their CVB, due to the same struggles.

At this point, I am dismayed and disappointed about what is going on in Louisville.  I am also upset that I am on my vacation and am having to write to all of you…  But, I will say, that when I return, it will not be business as usual, at least, while I am in this position.  I am hoping that the leadership of the GLSC Board, CVB Commissioners and the Mayor will do what is right and put an end to this madness.

My staff and I work very hard for this city and have established a good reputation throughout our industry.  Our clients are ready to come here and have a comfort level knowing that their event is in good hands.  We have also generated significant economic impact for this city through these relationships and events.  We feel demoralized and frustrated when these things happen and it is not a fair position to put us in.

Although I am away, I will be happy to take anyone’s calls to address this situation or answer any questions.  But more importantly, it would be helpful to me to get some assurances that this will be dealt with and changes will be made. And I trust that those changes will be the right ones.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Diane McGraw

37 thoughts on “CVB vs. Sports Commission in Big Rift

  1. absolutely NO OFFENSE intended here, but you utterly buried the lead. the PGA’S coming back to Louisville? you have to be more adept at writing for news b/c you just broke a huge story my friend. THAT’S the lead, not some stupid fight no one cares about.

    Congrats on the scoop, but next time own it!!! You earned it and did a great job. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hey, I just want them to get the credit they’re due…I have yet to see it on any local newscast…strange.

  3. Ms McGraw eloquently brings to the forefront the struggle that more than a few organizations and hospitality companies have discovered in their relationship with the Louisville CVB in the past few years. It is important to this city’s future to recognize and nurture the efforts of all players and agencies involved in bringing millions of dollars of revenue into this city. Our community’s businesses desperately need this revenue stream to survive our economic crisis, and the CVB’s leadership needs to nurture the collaborations they enjoy, to maintain their very large operating budget and high profile positions in that organization. Unfortunately Louisville is often viewed as a stepping stone to a position in a larger city with a larger salary.

  4. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll lay the blame at the top. It apparently is a requirement that any Metro department head (committee, board, commission, etc.) must avoid any contact with any other department head (committee, board, commission, etc.), regardless of how closely aligned their jobs or missions may be.

    Maybe they are all paranoid that one of the other guys will notice they are incompetent. Looking at it from the outside, it is easy to see those fears are unfounded, since – after all – they are all incompetent.

  5. I think until all sides are heard from any comments or remarks are one sided. Positions from all sides need to be heard before an educated response can be formed. It is sad to see this pettiness in the public media – it will only hurt Louisville.

  6. “But, I will say, that when I return, it will not be business as usual”

    ha ha, no kidding

    Interesting insight into both dysfunctional organizations. You want change? This memo blasted around town should shake things up a bit. I’m guessing the first move will be the exit of McGraw. Too bad, she sounds like a passionate person trying to do what’s best for Lou and frustrated enough to blast this out. We can hear you now. Although next vacation keep the Blackberry off.

  7. Mcgraw really sounds like she was drinking on her vacation when she wrote this. What was she thinking? The guy who funds her department is the guy she’s criticizing? Can someone spell IDIOT? Was she smoking the same dope her ex husband Tug used to smoke with the Phillies? Looks like to me she’s just put a nail in her coffin.

  8. Good grief, something’s going to change in the “ville? Holy smoke, I can’t wait. But I think the first change is going to be this McGraw chick packing her bags. I can’t believe she put all this in writing. Hell, this ain’t nothing but politics at its best. Sounds like she’s in way over her head. And, really, what event has she brought to Louisville? Someone tell me? Good bye!

  9. As someone pointed out, we don’t know both sides. BUT — if just what we know from the letter is accurate, then the CVB needs to decide to either get rid of the Sports Commission, since it’s obvious they don’t want one,

    OR, the CVB and Mr. Wood need to learn how to treat co-workers with respect, and learn how to work with people and not against them.

    If Ms. McGraw either gets canned or leaves in disgust, I think the city will be the poorer for it.

  10. Ms. McGraw is a joke. She hasn’t bought one event to Louisville since she started here in 2007, and seems to be riding on the coat tails of everyone else to gain her success. She needs to pack her bags and go back to Philadelphia and let someone that knows how to do the job run the Sports Commission. Jim Wood has brought economic impact to the city, and will continue to do so. Ms. McGraw is only in this to make herself look good.

  11. I really doubt the city will miss her. I don’t even know her but what has she done? This is the first time I’ve heard her name…and she’s been here since ’07????

  12. WASUP, world? Seems to me we might be seeing MJ and DM leaving together! Just my opinion ya know. Both be doing the moonwalk somewhere else. What’s Mayorforlife thinking about his little girlie? Maybe he’s in bed with her, folks and Mr. Woodie is mad he ain’t gettin’ no Woodie! lmao See ya Diane, babbeeeee…dumb lttr…but who am I?

  13. She has done nothing. If she has been in this industry 20 years, we should be seeing events coming here to Louisville. I’m convinced she has gotten so far due to her last name. The woman sounds totally clueless!!!!!!!

  14. Way to go Jim Wood! It seems that at least someone is interested in bringing events to Louisville.

    Someone remind me, wasn’t Ms McGraw’s predecessor the one that brought the Iron Man, as well as many other events to town?

    What did she bring? a third rate bike riding group, or did she even bring that…

    I say bravo to the CVB, at least someone is earning their check.

    Adios McGraw, surely there’s a stop and rob that needs a cashier someplace.

  15. She has made a blunder. Everyone knows how loose lipped Louisville is. One of her board members had to give this letter to the editors here. She must not have much control of her board, either.

  16. Way to go Jim Wood! It seems that at least someone is interested in bringing events to Louisville.

    Someone remind me, wasn’t Ms McGraw’s predecessor the one that brought the Iron Man, as well as many other events to town?

  17. Way to go Jim Wood! It seems that at least someone is interested in bringing events to Louisville.

    Someone remind me, wasn’t Ms McGraw’s predecessor the one that brought the Iron Man, as well as many other events to town?

  18. The CVB is the most political place imaginable. Jim Wood is the most disrespectful bully imaginable! All incidents described have Jim Wood written all over them! Especially the tickets not being close. I’m sure there are staff members that can’t dare say a word about that because either one, only few staff members will be able to go again or two staff wont be able to go at all because someone challenged the bully. Until you have seen every single episode Ms. McGraw has noted, you will not know. It’s a very unfair place! Wood does not like challenges and I’m sure Ms. McGraw’s exposure has him completely red! I applaud her exposing Wood and CVB for what it is.

  19. Maybe McGraw needs to quit thinking everyone owes her and instead start working for the things she wants. Politics aside, you get what you earn in life. It’s really that simple. She seems to be a whiner in this entire childish episode.

  20. I agree with the guy that she has no support from her board. They leaked the memo. If I were McGraw I wouldn’t like the way this has come down. Seems someone is out to see her demise.

  21. “business as usual”…I’d hate to come back from vacation after exposing a rift between two organizations that are seemingly supposed to work together…McGraw might not have liked what was going on before…but now she really isn’t going to like what’s going to happen. I can’t imagine being in her shoes. She looks totally out of water.

  22. Wow! from reading this comment, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was written by a member of her staff. Does she really bring events to the city… Or does the staff do all the work for her, and she reaps the rewards. I haven’t heard anything about Ms McGraw bringing events to the city of Louisville.
    Was she just hired for her name thinking it would be a major impact? That seems to be the case.

  23. Maybe Tim needs someone to carry his guitar picks at the next concert. Or to rev up his own stale career with a steamy letter to his fans! She’d be perfect!

  24. I just looked at the GLSC web site and Mcgraw doesn’t even have a degree, nor does another member, Fante. How can this be? Hell, I know better to write the letter she did. Call me stupid, but I have my masters degree. Hire me!!! I need a job.

  25. As said above, “Riding the Coat Tails of Others to Gain her Success” What a way to get yourself ahead by using your former husbands last name. Ms McGraw, pack your bags and let someone that knows how to run a sports commission do the job. And quit being such a whiner and grow the hell up.

  26. I support Diane McGraw totally. After years of frustration, she finally vented what she faced on a daily basis. She is a professional at what she does and was hired to bring sports to the community. Let her get the credit when it’s due. And then let’s get on with the business of promoting Louisville together!

  27. “She’s a professional at what she does?” You call her letter professional? She’s getting the credit she deserves, so it seems.

  28. She doesn’t deserve any credit, she hasn’t brought in one event in the two years she has been in Louisville.

  29. Will her letter cause Louisville not to be host of 2014 PGA if they were deciding to come here? If so, her job should end immediately. That’s really the only thing that matters in the whole scheme of things.

  30. It is obvious that everyone making posts hear have never tried negotate anything with the City of Louisville. This city is in capable of making things happen and when someting small does happen everyone fights to take credit for it.

  31. It’s “You’reallclueless”…lmao. I guess we can spell (it’s negotiate) but not negotiate a contract…or write a pithy letter that blames everyone but the Pope!

  32. jonesy
    Please forgive me I will make sure that I slow down and check everything twice just to make it nice for you.

  33. Exactly, think things through. And if the prima donna in her ivory tower would have slowed down when she was pecking away, maybe the letter she wrote wouldn’t be such an embarassment to herself and the city. Gotta go mow the lawn…wooohooo!

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