Airstream Ventures’ leap of faith brings unique sporting events to Clay County

By Don Coble don@opcfla.com
Posted 7/14/21

CLAY COUNTY – As the CEO for the Jacksonville Sports Council and COO for TaxSlayer Bowl, Alan Verlander already was on the fast track to success.

But something was missing, so he traded it all …

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Airstream Ventures’ leap of faith brings unique sporting events to Clay County

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – As the CEO for the Jacksonville Sports Council and COO for TaxSlayer Bowl, Alan Verlander already was on the fast track to success.

But something was missing, so he traded it all in three years ago to start his own sports marketing company.

His leap of faith led to the successful creation of Airstream Ventures, a company dedicated to bringing a variety of events to the area, particularly Clay ounty.

“When I went to the sports council, after three or four years of learning the business, I decided to do it on my own,” Verlander said. “I took a big chance and it paid off. I never dreamed we’d be where we are today.”

Airstream’s first major client was the Clay County Tourism Department. Verlander’s group has worked to bring a variety of events to the county – with visions of bigger things to come.

“Our goal is to bring people to Clay County using sports,” said Kimberly Morgan, Director of Tourism for Clay County. “We’re going to create an experience unlike any other and we’re going to make it a memorable experience.”

Verlander enlisted the help of his longtime colleague, Joel Lamp. They worked together in the athletic department at Jacksonville University and then with the City of Jacksonville. Verlander now is the CEO of Airstream; Lamp is the Senior Director of Events and Tourism.

“This is different than some of the things we’ve done in the past, but a lot of it is the same,” Lamp said. “We’re just using different muscles. We have to look at things in a different way.”

Verlander is part of a family that has deep roots in the sports and entertainment business. His brother, Mike, was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR before he recently was hired as the President and Chief Revenue Officer for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Verlander had the idea of branching out on his own for a while. He and Lamp talked for nearly two months before they decided to turn the dream into a reality.

“Joel and I have been running events for a long time,” Verlander said.

Since winning unanimous approval from the Board of Clay County Commissioners, Airstream already had events lined up.

The group already has hosted a couple of Southeast Cornhole League tournaments, the USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships, five events from the Sunshine State Games and a wrestling tournament.

Airstream also will entertain the Street League Skateboarding World Championship on Nov. 13-14 in Jacksonville and the Travis Pastrana Nitro Rallycross on Dec. 5-6 at the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park at Keystone Heights Airport.

“These are going to be huge events for us,” Verlander said. “It’s going to be a big deal for skateboarding because there will be national and international coverage. The Nitro Rallycross is another major event, and it’s amazing how it continues to evolve.”

Airstream also has conducted high school football, basketball and baseball tournaments involving teams throughout the First Coast.

And they’re just getting started.

Verlander said there are two pillars to success – making sure there’s enough money to operate without cutting corners and picking the right projects and partners.

“Those two formulas have done us well,” Verlander said. “Even with COVID, we were profitable in 2020. It’s nice to be smaller because you can be mobile and pivot.”

Another mission is to make sure every event offers a “great experience from the moment they get to the event until they leave,” Lamp said.

Lamp also said the pandemic opened unexpected doors for the company.

“We have faith in what we’re doing and our business plan,” Lamp said. “We found some niches we probably wouldn’t have found if it wasn’t for COVID.”

Sebring is another major client. Airstream said their focus in the South Florida community will be racing since it’s the home of the 12 Hours of Sebring sports car race.

The company has plans to move more events to the Clay County Fairgrounds and Ronnie Van Zant Park in Green Cove Springs. Verlander and Lamp believe the rapid growth of Clay County will create even more opportunities.

“Clay County was the first one that took a chance on us,” Verlander said. “We’ve come a long way in a short period of time. Sports tourism is a large economic driver for communities. Taking our success in bringing events to Jacksonville, we are excited to expand our efforts into Clay County by using our model to build its profile as a sports destination that also makes an economic impact.”

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