Christina Ghani-Smith: Baltimore’s Sporting Legacy Enhances Meetings and Conventions

Skift Take

Baltimore is a city where sports are more than a pastime, they are intrinsic to the culture. Its history of hosting major sporting events benefits meeting and convention planners as bringing in big groups is what the city does regularly.

Christina Ghani-Smith is the Director of Sports Sales at Visit Baltimore. With a lifelong interest in sports, having been on the national junior team and recruited to college for gymnastics, Ghani-Smith began her post-college career working for Hilton Hotels before joining Visit Baltimore in 2016. She leads the sales team for sports-related meetings and events, showing organizations of all sizes why Baltimore is the city for these types of gatherings. 

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Baltimore’s Culture of Sport

Sports are more than a pastime in Baltimore, they are part of the city’s culture, adding to its identity. The list of athletes that have come up through the city and teams that have achieved national success is long and includes the likes of Michael Phelps, Ray Lewis, the 2011 and 2013 Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens and much more. 

The city not only has a history of hosting major sporting events, but these partnerships with sports organizations continue to grow. In 2017, sports accounted for 15% of the city’s meetings and events, jumping to 34% in 2022, more than doubling in five years. This experience in welcoming large groups is beneficial to any meeting or convention planner looking for a destination that can meet their needs. 

Baltimore Plays Ball

Hosting a meeting or event in a sporting stadium or arena adds an extra level of excitement, often giving attendees the opportunity for behind-the-scenes tours, and access to areas that are not usually available to fans, adding to the attendee experience and providing a unique element to the event. Meeting planners have their choice of iconic Baltimore sporting venues, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards, often considered one of the most important ballparks in baseball, having inspired many stadium designs since. The M&T Bank Stadium, situated 35 feet above Oriole Park was the first stadium to receive LEED Gold certification in the US. Additionally, there is the CFG Bank Arena which has just completed a $200 million renovation and is located close to the city’s convention center. All of these venues are within walking distance, creating a thriving arts and entertainment district within Baltimore that continues to grow and be developed. 

Looking to the Future

With many sporting events booked years in advance, much like conventions, the planning can begin with no idea of what the world will look like come the event date. For example, Baltimore will be hosting the AAU Junior Olympics in 2028 and 2032, five and nine years away respectively, and much can change in that timeframe that planners and organizers need to take into consideration. That is why having Ghani-Smith and her team as a resource is invaluable.

The increased interest in e-sports is also on the minds of those in the city who are paying attention to this emerging sporting category. There are spaces that can host these types of events, with consideration for a dedicated venue in the future.

Leadership Built from Sports

Being an athlete has instilled discipline, tenacity, and other skills that Ghani-Smith utilizes within her career today including persistence, balancing risk and reward, and confidence. It also creates a leadership mindset and a competitiveness that is beneficial when working to position Baltimore as the destination of choice for meeting and event planners. 

This episode was sponsored by Visit Baltimore.

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