Greater Cleveland Sports Awards goes virtual, will air on WKYC and STO on March 4

The Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, like almost everything else the last 10 months, will be a virtual presentation.

The awards show will air on Thursday, March 4 at 7 p.m. on WKYC and SportsTime Ohio, and feature the usual array of representatives from the Browns, Cavs and Indians.

The sports awards are traditionally held in January, with a packed ballroom at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel watching speeches and awards presentations. The pandemic forced the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission to change plans for its largest annual fundraiser, though the show will include the usual selection of top athletes at the professional, college and high school levels.

The sports commission said in a news release on Wednesday, Jan. 6, that the awards show will be an hour-long TV special produced by NPi Audio Visual Solutions of Cleveland.

“It will feature award finalists, videos and guest appearances from current and former national sports celebrities, with support from the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians,” the sports commission said in a news release.

There will also be a silent auction and 50/50 raffle — the details for which will be announced soon.

The sports commission is selling ticket packages that include access to an exclusive pre-show that will feature local and national celebrities. That show will be streamed live at 6 p.m.

Partner packages are being sold for $4,500 and $7,000, and individual tickets are priced at $125. Details on each are here.

The sports awards are a critical revenue stream for the sports commission. As we wrote in October, when Crain’s reported that the sports awards likely would be going the virtual route, the sports commission’s 2018 and ’17 tax filings showed that the awards program accounted for a respective 20{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} and 23{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of the organization’s revenue.

In 2018, the sports awards generated $771,205 in revenue. That represented one-fifth of the sports commission’s earnings during a year in which Cleveland hosted the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships for the first time.

“To say it’s an important night financially is an understatement,” David Gilbert, the sports commission’s president and CEO, told Crain’s in October. “It’s very big for us.”

The 2020 sports awards drew more than 1,300 guests in January. A virtual show is cheaper to hold, but “realistically you’re going to have less revenue as well,” Gilbert said.

The sports commission had eight events canceled or postponed by the pandemic. Seven booked Cleveland for a future year.

In October, when the NCAA announced its national championship hosts for a four-year cycle that covers the 2022-26 school years, Cleveland again landed the D-I wrestling championships. The event will be held at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in 2026.

The year before, the FieldHouse will host the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament. March Madness and D-I wrestling are two of the eight NCAA championships that the sports commission helped Northeast Ohio secure in the four-year span.

First, though, Gilbert’s group is focusing on two biggies — the sports awards and the NFL draft. The draft will be held along Cleveland’s lakefront from April 29 to May 1.

The sports awards might feel different this year, but they will be widely available, thanks to the agreements with WKYC and STO, and Gilbert has said we should continue to expect a quality show.

“How do we make it great? How do we make it an event that still has a tremendous benefit for the organization, for the community, financially and otherwise?” the sports commission’s president and CEO said back in October.

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