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Youth sports is estimated to be a $15 billion industry in the U.S., and Nebraska officials want to see the state get a bigger cut.

That's why various organizations that promote sports tourism in their communities have decided to team up.

The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with 10 other organizations, announced this week that they have partnered to form Sports Nebraska.

The aim of the organization is to sell the state to regional and national sporting event planners.

“By combining efforts and expertise from across the state, Sports Nebraska feels it can create a cohesive package that will drive new sporting business into the state,” said Derek Bombeck, president of Sports Nebraska and sales development manager with the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The first event for the group will be the National Association of Sports Commissions Annual Symposium in Minneapolis later this month.

 Bombeck said the aim of the group is to get more regional and national sporting events to come to Nebraska. For example, he mentioned situations where events are looking at Omaha or Lincoln and the dates don't work because facilities are already booked. In that scenario, Sports Nebraska might steer the organization toward Grand Island, Kearney or another city.

"I'd much rather see that event stay in the state than go to Iowa or Kansas," he said. 

Events such as the USA Roller Sports National Championships bring thousands of people to Lincoln and result in millions of dollars of tourism spending. The National High School Finals Rodeo, which is coming to the Lancaster Event Center in 2020 and 2021, is expected to bring as many as 50,000 visitors to Lincoln each year, with an annual economic impact of more than $16 million.

Getting more such events in Nebraska will mean more money for the communities that host them.

"We're just trying to get more sports tourism dollars to Nebraska," Bombeck said.

In addition to the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, the other members of Sports Nebraska are: Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, Omaha Sports Commission, Sarpy County Tourism, Visit Fremont, Visit Grand Island, Visit Kearney, Visit Norfolk, Visit North Platte, Visit Omaha and Visit South Sioux City

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