Countys New Sports Commission Hires Director
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County’s recently formed sports commission has selected an executive director to attract more sporting events to the area and develop community athletic programs.
Mike Sophia will leave his post as vice president of the Florida Sports Foundation in Tallahassee to take over as director April 1.
The sport commission received more than 140 applications for the post, which they narrowed to six candidates.
South Miami Mayor Mary Scott Russell led the selection committee.
Sports commission Chairman Larry Gautier said the group wanted a director with experience in organizing sports events and familiarity with the Miami-Dade County sports scene.
"We were looking for someone who had a positive track record with event organizing through out the county," Mr. Gautier said. "Mike has those relationships right now and can bring those to the table. We needed some who can hit the ground running and have an immediate and positive impact."
Approved in April 2003 by the Miami-Dade County Commission, the sports group is designed to recruit youth and adult amateur sporting events to the county and develop more community support for these programs. In addition, the sports commission hopes to raise private funds to support local amateur athletic organizations.
Mr. Gautier said the commission has gotten inquiries from sports organizations based in the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. One international organization has contacted the commission about bringing the World Cricket Championships to Miami-Dade County in 2007.
The European based-International Association of Golf Tour Operators has also contacted the commission about bringing some of its customers to town to play on the area’s courses, Mr. Gautier said.
Before working as vice president for the Florida Sports Foundation, Mr. Sophia headed the Sunshine State Games, a statewide, Olympic-style competition. He also worked in Atlanta for four years as assistant competition manager for the Olympic Games.
He said he has always been involved in sports and studied sport management at the University of Florida. He has worked with events in Greater Miami in his current post.
"With the sports foundation we are responsible for promoting the entire state, and I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of work down here and be a part of the sports environment down here," Mr. Sophia said. "Growing up I found I really enjoyed sports. It has always been a passion of mine."
Mr. Sophia said he envisions the position being bringing not only events to town but also improving athletic opportunities for the public.
"Miami has already been good at bring in some of the big events. But we want to do everything, whether it’s the youth softball league up to the big super bowls," Mr. Sophia said. "We want to be the ultimate sports destination and we want to improve the quality of life for the community through sports."
Mr. Sophia is to be in town next month for a few days and to meet the county commission at its March 16 meeting.