Will Phipps envisions Waco as an epicenter for sporting events ranging from youth tournaments to professional events.
Phipps was introduced Wednesday as the executive director of the newly formed Greater Waco Sports Commission, and is excited about the possibilities the city offers.
“We want this to be an active community, a fit community,” Phipps said. “But we also want people to be able to come in and watch sporting events as a spectator. There’s such momentum behind Waco right now and we want to continue to drive that momentum.”
For the last four years, Phipps has been director of basketball operations at Valparaiso (Ind.) University under Bryce Drew. But he wanted to get back to Texas since he’s from Lubbock and spent four years as a student assistant in Baylor men’s basketball coach Scott Drew’s program before graduating in 2009.
When he saw the opening for the Greater Waco Sports Commission, he jumped at the chance.
“We loved living in Valparaiso but dreamed about being back in Texas and raising our girls here,” Phipps said. “Waco was the prime spot. It’s a phenomenal location. This is an opportunity to be a leader in the community and give back.”
Phipps plans to spend the next year organizing the Greater Waco Sports Commission while exploring events to bring to the city. The organization will also assist existing events around the city like the TriWaco triathlon sponsored by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Eventually Phipps wants to bring a plethora of new events to Waco that will utilize existing facilities and bring business to hotels and restaurants.
“As far as economic development is concerned, the best event we could have is with youth girls,” Phipps said. “Twelve year-old girls is the highest return you can get on economic development because they bring the biggest crowd with them like grandparents, brothers and sisters. We’ll look at events like youth volleyball, soccer and softball, and we have the facilities here to do them.”
Phipps said another possibility is hosting AAU basketball tournaments that would draw teams from metro areas like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Phipps wants to schedule events that will take advantage of everything Waco has to offer including Cameron Park, the Brazos River, Baylor facilities and high school facilities.
Rick Tullis, the board chairman for the Greater Waco Sports Commission, likes the energy Phipps brings to the newly created position.
“His background isn’t sports commissions since he came out of the college basketball world,” Tullis said. “But he called me and said he was excited about the position. As we talked, it was obvious he had already done research and was excited about the prospects, not only about Waco but what a sports commission can do for the community.”
Tullis believes it’s important for Waco to have a sports commission to bring more events to the city in a unified fashion.
“I figured out that almost all our peer cities in Texas have sports commissions to actively bring events to the community,” Tullis said. “We had different events but no one was bringing them together. If we could get a little more strategic we could blow the doors off this thing. We’ve got some great facilities and unique things in our city. You can build a big sports complex but nobody is going to build a Brazos River or a Cameron Park.”