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Nicole Rissler began her position in September.
Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 4 years ago

Nicole Rissler rides sports tourism wave of success

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Visit Sarasota Sports Commission Director of Sports Nicole Rissler says she couldn’t have written a more perfect job description for herself. In September, the former athlete, volleyball coach and sports-marketing employee brought experience on both ends of the athletic-event spectrum to her new position as the face of Sarasota’s ever-growing sports-tourism industry.

“It was great coming back,” Rissler said. “This job allows me to combine my passion for sports with my experience in marketing and events.

“I get to wake up every morning and do something I love,” she says. “It’s honestly the perfect job for me.”

Having previously worked for Visit Sarasota County in sports marketing until 2005, Rissler says the county had grown during her time away. With the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium, expansion of IMG, construction of Nathan Benderson Park, as well as other developments, Rissler says the timing was perfect for her to return.

“Eight years ago, Sarasota was just beginning to get into sports tourism,” says Rissler. “It’s incredible to see the impact our increased venues and resources are already having, and I want to see the industry continue to grow.”

In her first year on the job, Rissler has worked with staff to revise Visit Sarasota County’s grant process from an annual to a monthly one, and she’s had her hand in a number of projects aimed to bring national and international events to Sarasota. She worked on the Pan-American Masters Championship swimming event and continues to help plan the 2014 IBCPC Dragon Boat festival and the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

“I think of myself as the facilitator,” she says. “My job is to get the right people sitting at the table to make events happen. I don’t put on the events, but I do everything possible to make sure they’re successful and have what they need. I’m the spoke in the middle of the wheel.”

Most recently, Rissler joined a delegation of representatives on a trip to Lucerne, Switzerland, to pitch Nathan Benderson Park as the venue for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

She says the presentation was well received, and that in early August the FISA Council will make its venue recommendation, which the FISA Congress will approve Sept. 2.

Rissler says landing the bid would have an enormous impact on Sarasota — the event itself would have an estimated $25 million economic impact, and its television broadcast would help put Sarasota on the map as an international sports destination.

“I’ve always said that if we had the venues to compete, we would win more often than not,” says Rissler.

“Who wouldn’t want to come here? And, now, we’re in that position; we have the world-class facilities.”

Rissler will present information on the value of sports tourism in our community during a free event Thursday, July 25, at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court. She’ll give details on the Sarasota County Sports Commission’s new housing bureau, which will work with area hotels and event holders to secure lodging and calculate room rates during the event.

Contact Nick Friedman at [email protected]

Sarasota Area Sports Alliance Spotlight
What: Nicole Rissler will present information on the value of sports tourism in our community and give details on the Sarasota County Sport’s Commission’s new housing bureau, which will work with area hotels and event right holders to secure lodging and calculate room nights. Other topics include the grant process; changes to grant applications and post-event forms; updates to application deadlines and details on how the SCSC reviews grants. The presentation will include a question-and-answer opportunity.
When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25
Where: Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court, Sarasota
Cost: Free
Info: To pre-register for this event, go to


If I weren’t working in my current position, I’d be … “putting on special events for nonprofits.”

On my first day of work, I wish I would have known … “how many people you have to please. Every event has a lot of people involved, and we want to make sure that everyone is happy with the way things go. I take on that role.”

People always tell me … “things will slow down. They haven’t yet!”

When I was young, I wanted … “to be a lawyer. Somewhere along the line, I decided it wasn’t for me.”

When I retire, I want to … “travel. Anywhere. I want to see all 50 states, and I want to travel with my husband.”

Five things you didn’t know about Visit Sarasota County Director of Sports, Nicole Rissler:

1. Rissler’s interest in sports began at a young age. She grew up riding quarter horses, and she even qualified for the world championships when she was 12.

2. At the age of 21, Rissler became one of the youngest Division II volleyball coaches in NCAA history as head coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

3. Rissler still enjoys playing volleyball with her husband, Bob, and his two brothers, who are all former football players.

4. Rissler is an avid reader, and she says she’s a big fan of James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks. She says she can’t pick an all-time favorite book, but that Tony Dungy’s, “The Quiet Strength,” is one of the only books she’s read more than once.

5. Every Saturday morning, Rissler joins her two daughters, mother and sister and on a long walk. She says the weekly tradition has become their time to bond.


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