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Area transportation officials give idea of sports commission a boost

North Texas officials who took a lot of heat for how traffic was handled during ice-plagued Super Bowl week say they want to form a regional sports commission to help deal with transportation issues and put together bids for big events.

"Maybe we need to create a sports commission so you can maintain this level of effort, whether it's the Final Four that's coming up or TCU football," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "With a region of six and a half million people, you're going to be looking at hosting the Democratic and Republican conventions one day. You're going to look at this foundation starting to grow."

The idea of a permanent sports commission has been bandied about since before Super Bowl XLV in February at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Some elected leaders are skeptical of the proposal, saying it sounds like another layer of government. But proponents say such a commission can be run as a nonprofit entity without public funding.

"It's simply a platform to go out and put bids together and bring in events," said Super Bowl Host Committee spokesman Tony Fay.

Big game postmortem

Morris' comments came during a monthly meeting of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition. The presentation was meant as a postmortem on the handling of Metroplex traffic during Super Bowl week, which was marred by historic icy weather that forced schools to cancel classes and stores to close for much of the week.

Even so, Morris and other officials from the western side of North Texas were mostly complimentary about how highways, trains and buses were able to keep people moving during the week. Several officials said national sportscasters who criticized the region's mobility were taking cheap shots.

"We did a fantastic job of making sure people who weren't from here got to see some of the best stuff we had," said North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino. "If you really get down to it, every major artery was open."

The concept of a sports commission will likely be discussed this summer by the Regional Transportation Council and other government and business groups, Morris said. A permanent sports commission could routinely bid on major events, such as another Super Bowl, Olympic Games or World Cup soccer.

Wooing big events

Several years ago, business and political leaders in the region formed a Super Bowl bid committee that wound up landing Super Bowl XLV. Then a Super Bowl Host Committee was formed to handle the massive planning for the event -- everything from transportation to hotels to security.

In April, Host Committee Vice President Tara Green was appointed chairwoman of the prestigious National Association of Sports Commissions. Her appointment was unusual, considering that Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the few major metro areas in the U.S. without a regional sports commission -- and her employer, the local Super Bowl Host Committee, is close to paying its final bills and shutting its doors.

But Green, who has been a member of the national association through her work with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau since 1997, said retaining the administrative functions of the Host Committee is important for consistency as the region prepares for its next big event. For example, she said, in 2012 the region must begin its efforts to host the 2014 Final Four college basketball championship, which will be at Cowboys Stadium.

"It's important that the institutional knowledge we put in place for the Super Bowl stays intact," she said.

Visitors bureaus in a dozen Metroplex cities are on board with the concept of a sports commission, she added.

"We can use sports as an economic development tool," she said.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

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