John Giantonio doesn’t look at the sprawling, forested, snow-covered range south of Casper and see Casper Mountain.
He sees Casper Mountain Outdoor Sports Complex and Biathlon Center, and in his new role as director of sports and events at the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, that’s exactly how he intends to market it.
“That mountain is one of the greatest assets Casper has,” said Giantonio, who started just two months ago. “We have to promote Casper Mountain as being more than just Hogadon.”
He intends to start by turning Casper into the host of one race in a national mountain bike racing series as soon as 2015. Giantonio is also in talks to bring orienteering events to Casper.
The first step in making it happen is establishing a venue, according to Giantonio. Hence the “Outdoor Sports Complex.”
“You talk about the venue, you talk about the events we already host, and it gives people a comfort level that we aren’t inventing something,” Giantonio said.
Casper has done a good job of promoting more traditional sports, he said. High school basketball, volleyball, wrestling and track all hold their culminating tournaments here.
Add the College National Finals Rodeo and the National Junior College Athletic Association volleyball finals, and Casper has a solid foundation as a sport destination.
The two high school basketball tournaments, the wrestling tournament, and the spirit cheerleading tournament have already resulted in $5.3 million in direct spending — fuel, food, lodging and retail — this year, according to the visitors bureau’s formula.
Those events brought an additional $64,000 in sales tax revenue into Casper’s coffers, Giantonio said.
“It doesn’t take much for it to start adding up,” Giantonio said. “It’s a small investment in the event from our side, but it provides maximum results to an awful lot of people.”
Tourism boards didn’t always think this way. When Giantonio started his career in southern Florida, the entire game plan for bringing in visitors was to focus on leisure or business.
The only sports events people had their eye on were the Final Fours, World Cups and Super Bowls of the world.
Giantonio focused on the small, regular events that consistently injected money into the county.
“By the time I left, sports eclipsed everything we did,” Giantonio said.
The longer Giantonio talks about creating new events and reviving old ones, the more animated he gets.
He flicks the clutch of an imaginary motorcycle envisioning a downtown event that could lure riders bound for Sturgis, S.D., off the interstate in the summer, and he traces a possible route for a reborn Casper Classic bicycle race on an invisible map.
He is excited to be back out West, he explains, and back in sports. Now, he’s looking forward to putting the Casper Mountain Outdoor Sports Complex on the map.