VIDEO: Rusty Buchanan Brevard County Sports Tourism Pioneer, Makes Huge Economic Impact
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // January 25, 2016
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Rusty Buchanan’s Space Coast Sports Promotions has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the Brevard County economy through sports programming, and the company continues to look for ways to add to the economic impact that sports have on the area.
RUSTY BUCHANAN – 2014 INDUCTEE
• Space Coast Sports Promotions Founder
• First Vice President of the AAU
• Brevard Sports Tourism Pioneer
ACCOMPLISHED ATHLETE AND COACH
BREVARD COUNY, FLORIDA – Sports are now, and have always been, a huge part of Rusty Buchanan’s life – and Brevard’s No. 1 sports ambassador is one of North America’s most well-liked and respected sports personalities.
Brimming with talent in high school in baseball and football, Rusty eventually chose track and set the bar high early in his career as an Olympic level high hurdler at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
Entering NCSU he had only lost three hurdle races ever. As a freshman he finished second in the Atlantic Cost Conference and was a high hurdle finalist in the National Championships.
Competing against the likes of Skeets Nehemiah he was ranked as high as third in the U.S. while at NCSU, and held several records.
Buchanan graduated from NCSU with a communications degree in 1983 and then became a sports broadcaster, working for the NBC affiliate in Charlotte.
He continued to participate in track and cross-country through coaching and led Charlotte Latin High School to both boys and girls state championships in track and cross-country.
He also coached college track at his alma mater and fulfilled another dream in an unexpected way. Buchanan had hoped to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to an American boycott of the event.
Years later as a college coach, he worked with several athletes who went on to the Olympic games. He remembers one in particular, a Dominican Republic student who attended NC State but struggled and was on the verge of leaving school.
Buchanan worked to help the student turn around his studies and continue his training. That is what is so special about Rusty – he genuinely cares about people in sports in many ways.
Buchanan then began a high-powered corporate career, helping grow the Adidas running shoes division and then a smaller specialty shoe company.
After he cashed out of that smaller company, he was ready for a new challenge. In the early ’90s, Florida passed a local option tax on hotel rooms designed to promote tourism, including sports-related events.
Brevard County tourism leaders recognized Buchanan’s talent and recruited him to work to promote Brevard for sports events. Buchanan met with great success, recruiting youth sporting events to the Space Coast.
Starting with the Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments, the Space Coast Sports Commission has grown to attract a wide variety of amateur sports, and Buchanan now serves as Executive Director of Space Coast Sports Promotions, which manages and promotes athletic events in Brevard County.
For 23 years, Space Coast Sports Promotions has attracted teams, which have spent millions of dollars in Brevard, and hosted hundreds of events, including one of the largest amateur athletic events in the history of amateur games, the 1994 Junior Olympic Games.
That one event brought more than 10,500 athletes to the Space Coast. But the benefits go beyond the athletes who visit.
There are parents and fans, which attend and possibly decide to spend another vacation in the area in the future.
In a Tourism Development Council economic impact study, the total impact of sports on Brevard County for 2001 reached an estimated $41 million.
VICE PRESIDENT OF AMATEUR ATHLETIC UNION
In 2009, his Olympic dreams came full circle when he got a call from the committee putting on the Vancouver winter games.
They needed officials to escort athletes to events and other functions throughout the day. On the last day of the games, he was included in the participation medal awards given to all athletes.
The medal was pewter, but an official Olympic medal nonetheless.
“I finally got to be part of an Olympic games, but not as an athlete – as an administrator,” he said.
Lessons learned in sports about working hard and staying committed have paid off outside the arena.
Over the years Space Coast Sports Promotions has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy through sports programming, and the company continues to look for ways to add to the economic impact that sports have on the area.
Buchanan is always working with local groups, designing ways to develop and enhance the county’s efforts and to increase and improve use of local facilities to benefit all stakeholders.
In 2013 Buchanan was elected Vice President of the AAU, the largest amateur athletic organization in the world, and recently traveled to Afghanistan on a U.S. Goodwill Tour to assist the Afghan government establish sports programs for the embattled country.
While he’s no longer the competitor, he remains as a leader in the game and ambassador for sports. Athletics is in his blood, and his big heart beats for Brevard sports, and for the people who play here and beyond.
To submit your nomination for the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017 call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com