SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Florida Sports Awards give other organizers an idea

The Florida Sports Awards — known as the Jaspers — which started in 1996 as a local charity event, have blown past organizers' expectations, prompting others to follow suit.

The Emmy-nominated statewide production, slated for Saturday at the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts, attracts sports stars from across Florida, as well as film and TV celebrities. It also has attracted attention from other cities hoping to replicate the Jaspers' success.

The Nashville Sports Council was the first to call. It contacted Florida Sports Awards President and CEO Andrew Jacobs a few years ago to learn how to start its version of the awards dinner, the American General Dinner of Champions. Another call came from former Major League Baseball player Glenn Davis, a Columbus, Ga., resident who plans to produce a similar program.

"When you're involved in fund raising, you're always looking for new ways to generate funds for your endeavor," Davis said. "Andy's got a good one."

"We were looking at the Jaspers format and were impressed with what [they] were doing," said Randy Puckett, events director for the Nashville Sports Council.

Nashville officials copied much of Jacksonville's technical production aspects, spending $125,000. By comparison, the Jaspers event is produced with a $140,000 budget, plus in-kind donations.

Nashville's event, now in its third year, attracts 1,000 attendees annually and will be broadcast for the first time this year. Plans are to increase attendance to 1,500 during the next few years.

"It's really grown in popularity," Puckett said. "I gauge that by the participation of the award winners. The [Tennessee] Titans had a month off and all came back to be here at the event."

This year, Robert Wuhl, star, writer and producer of HBO's "Arli$$," will host the Florida show.

"The Jaspers [are] the most prestigious sports event as far as exposure in the state, by far," said Mike Sullivan, director of sports development for the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

Devan Stuart writes for The Business Journal in Jacksonville.

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