Louisville Sports Commission CEO Karl F Schmitt Jr. to Retire in February 2023
Led Organization Since 2010 Through Growth, Expanded Community Outreach Initiatives
Louisville, Ky. – Feb. 8, 2022 – After leading the organization on a growth trajectory for 12 years, Louisville Sports Commission (LSC) President and CEO Karl F. Schmitt Jr. announced today he will retire in February 2023 when he turns 70.
The LSC was founded in 1999 with a singular mission – to attract sporting events to Louisville that generate positive economic impact with the local travel and tourism industry. In the time since Schmitt has been at the helm, the organization has grown its core business and expanded its mission to include community-focused programs around active lifestyles and workforce initiatives.
“Karl’s outstanding leadership and work ethic have been instrumental in elevating the Sports Commission’s productivity and creating a high level of financial stability,” LSC Board Chairman Philip S. Poindexter said. “He assembled a strong team that is passionate about how sports can help improve our local economy and enhance the quality of life in our community. Through the efforts of Karl and the team, the Sports Commission is well-positioned for growth.”
The LSC board appointed a leadership transition committee to determine a successor with work beginning in late-spring.
“It’s been a great run, a labor of love.” Schmitt said, “Our team is amazing. I look forward to working with them for another 12 months to support our clients and partners and help with the transition.”
During his tenure, the LSC strengthened its relationship with Louisville Tourism and other local partners and expanded the organization’s reach in the sports travel and tourism industry. This partnership model resulted in more than triple the number of hotel room night stays generated by inbound sports travel events, making sports one of the community’s largest market segment room night producers. In 2017, the National Association of Sports Commissions recognized the LSC as its Large Market Sports Commission of the Year.
Since Schmitt joined the LSC in 2010, Louisville has generated more than $1 billion in local economic impact by hosting more than 60 NCAA championships across all three divisions; numerous world and national championships in cycling, fencing and gymnastics; large youth basketball, volleyball, archery, lacrosse, cheerleading and wrestling tournaments; major sports conferences and conventions; and the largest IRONMAN® in the world.
The organization has grown corporate and individual giving resulting in the number of supporters increasing from 12 to 250, and a 750 percent rise in annual contributed revenue. The LSC led efforts in 2016 to raise $1 million for capital improvements to transform Louisville’s BMX track into Olympic standards and served as a pro bono consultant during the creation of the Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center, a world-class indoor track and field facility located in the Russell Neighborhood.
Schmitt spearheaded the creation of Louisville Active, the LSC’s health and wellness strategy that currently focuses on three distinct initiatives: Kids Finish First presented by UofL Health, an afterschool program that helps instill the habit of exercise for local youth; Playing it Forward, an equipment redistribution program where the LSC and its community partners collect new and outgrown sports equipment and distribute it to youth for whom the cost of equipment can be a barrier to participation; and Sports Fun(d), a grant program that provides financial grants to establish and expand affordable, recreational-level sports activities in Louisville’s underserved neighborhoods.
Through hosted events, the LSC annually attracts thousands of student-athletes and other competitors to the community who are job-ready for professional careers outside of sports. With innovative thinking and programming, in partnership with Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), the LSC is helping to connect these high achievers to local businesses. The LSC’s 21-year-old college cross country meet, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious events, was rebranded in 2019 as the Live in Lou Cross Country Classic to feature GLI’s talent attraction brand.
Under Schmitt’s leadership, the LSC expanded its portfolio of owned and operated events that attract thousands of visitors to Louisville, promote our community’s brand and provide significant, positive cash flow for the organization. Currently, the LSC owns nine events: the Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse, given annually to the most versatile player in major college football; the Howard Schnellenberger Award, given annually to the MVP on the winning team of the University of Louisville – University of Kentucky football game; the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame selection and induction ceremony; the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon presented by Jim Beam®; the Louisville Pure Tap™ 5K; the Norton Sports Health 10K; the Louisville Indoor Games middle and high school track meet; the Live in Lou Cross Country Classic; and the Louisville Corporate Games presented by Humana, annually the largest field day for adults held in our community.
Prior to his tenure with the LSC, Schmitt was a member of the Churchill Downs senior management team for 20 years, served as sports information director at the University of Miami in the 1980s and taught English and coached football and track at Bishop David High School. As a volunteer, he served two terms as chairman of the board of the Louisville Urban League and the Muhammad Ali Center; was president of the Turf Publicists of America and the Holy Trinity Athletic Boosters and was on the boards of the Kentuckiana Minority Supplier Development Council, Greater Louisville Inc. and the Kentucky Science Center. He currently is a member of the Kentucky Derby Host program.