Sports Fan

Paul Versluis

What if.

Those two little words could be Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Kathy Nelson’s middle name. Nelson isn’t simply a dreamer—she’s also a doer of monumental proportions, a woman who lives in the moment, but is a spot-on visionary.

Prior to joining the Commission, Nelson, whose career started in broadcast, launched Metro Sports from a six-hour-a-day cable show to a 24-hour channel at Time Warner. Check that off her bucket list.

Then Patti Phillips, director of the Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WIN for KC, an organization under the umbrella of the KC Sports Commission), approached Nelson. “We are good friends, and she knew I understood WIN’s mission of empowering girls and women through sports,” says Nelson, who grew up in Kansas City playing volleyball and basketball. “Patti was resigning, and suggested I would be a strong candidate for her replacement.”

Nelson left the for-profit world for the privately funded non-profit organization. It was a slam-dunk. The job fit the Lenexa resident like a well-worn baseball glove.
Within 10 months of joining the KC Sports Commission, her friend and mentor of 20 years and head of the organization, Kevin Gray, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a difficult time for everyone, including Nelson, who watched the ambassador of KC sports slip away.

A committee embarked on an extensive search for Gray’s replacement, and concluded that Nelson was the best fit to assume the Sports Commission’s vacant top spot in November 2011. Nelson stepped into position, ready to play ball for Kansas City, working with community leaders and partners to further strengthen and leverage the area’s rich sports scene locally and nationally.

Nelson performs her role like a supremely conditioned athlete. She’s a tireless advocate for running up the scoreboard on enhancing the quality of life in KC through sports—promoting events like the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, the All-Star Game, the NAIA Tournament and the October Waddell and Reed Kansas City Marathon, one of the country’s fastest growing runs.

Since 1990 the Sports Commission has helped generate an estimated $750 million economic impact for the area. It sponsors more than 25 annual events, including youth clinics, community and membership luncheons and community-sponsored athletic events. It depends on the generosity of the community and on the tireless efforts of a legion of volunteers for major events like the KC Marathon.

Nelson thrives as the Sports Commission’s head cheerleader.

“Like Kevin used to say, we are the energy that drives sports in this town,” she says. “We bring it.”

SPORTS NUTS: “Kansas City is a metropolitan area full of people who love sports, no matter how well our teams are doing. Sports are a large part of who we are—including NFL, MLB, collegiate, high school and elite teams.”

SPORTS CONNECTION: “Participate in a run, buy tickets to a tournament, volunteer. That’s what the Sports Commission depends on—the community’s support.”

SPORTING NEWS: “The Inaugural Kevin Gray Father’s Day Run is June 16. It will be a time to pay tribute, and will become a signature event of the Sports Commission.”

For more information on the Kansas City Sports Commission or to volunteer, visit sportkc.org.

Categories: People, People & Places

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