There's a new tourism theme in Alabama. 2008 is the Year of Alabama Sports. For the rest of the year, tourism officials will be promoting all sorts of sporting events in an effort to attract new visitors to the state.
Almost everyone who lives in Alabama has experienced the thrill of an Auburn or Alabama football game. And in Montgomery, we all know the excitement of a Biscuits game. But what about people outside our state?
And what about Talladega? One look at NASCAR and you realize how lucrative sports tourism can be.
"Talladega is the fastest race car track in the world," said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell. "We've also got great baseball, great football, great tennis."
Sentell says those are the kinds of events that will be featured in tourism posters, brochures, and television ads that will air nationwide.
Another point of pride is the Robert Trent Jones golf trail, which is already one of the state's largest draws.
"Half a million people come into the state to play golf," Sentell said.
"But this is also an opportunity to share the history of sports in Alabama," explained Marilyn Stamps, who is coordinating the Year of Sports Campaign.
"For example, Rickwood Field in Birmingham is the oldest ball park in the country and a lot of people don't know that."
There's also the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, and the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, just to name a few.
Don't forget about the historic sports figures who called Alabama home -- names like Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe Louis and Carl Lewis.
The year of sports will also be featured prominently on the state department of tourism's web site. For more information, log on to www.alabama.travel.
Previous Alabama tourism campaigns like "The Year of the Arts" and "The Year of Food" were recognized nationally as some of the most successful programs of their kind in the nation.