The Savannah Waterfront Association has hired two executives with extensive backgrounds in event planning and organization to head the group in a move described as an effort to bring “exceptional event planning expertise” to festivals and other events on River Street. Jim Downs, the new executive director, comes from ESPN, where he served as the senior director of events for ESPN Outdoors, planning various fishing tours and ESPN Outdoors events including the Elite Series Professional BASS Fishing Tour, ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series and Bassmaster Classic. Carrie Bligh, the new senior director of operations, was the director of event operations for the Kansas City Royals, where she supervised more than 600 game-day event staff and oversaw game-day operations and security. “Jim and Carrie will help take the Savannah Waterfront Association to a whole new level of success, exposure and acclaim,” said Wet Willie’s CEO Bill Dickinson, who’s president of the Savannah Waterfront Association. “They have world-class experience and fresh ideas to help our association attract an even wider audience in 2013 and beyond.” During his time with ESPN, Downs also worked as director of the network’s Great Outdoor Games and won the 2004 Sports Travel Award for Best Professional Multi-Sport/Multi-Discipline Event, in recognition of his leadership at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games in Madison, Wis. He formerly served as director of sports and competitions for the ESPN X Games and ESPN Winter X Games, where he developed and executed events for dozens of summer and winter action sport. Over the years, he also worked as the logistics director for U.S. Olympic Festivals in Los Angeles, San Antonio and St. Louis and as the operations coordinator for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Jim brings a wealth of world-class experience to Savannah,” said Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. “I’m confident that he will be a real asset to our tourism leadership team and that he will serve as a valuable resource as the future of Savannah’s riverfront experience continues to evolve.” In Bligh’s role with the Royals, she served as the security and stadium events coordinator in 2012 when Kansas City hosted the 83rd annual major league baseball all-star game. She also has been the director of service and development at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix and director of account experience for the Phoenix Suns professional basketball team. “We’re excited to work with Jim and Carrie to help make River Street a must-see destination for travelers from across the United States and around the world,” said Michael T. Owens, president and CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council. “They have the experience, the ideas and the expertise to maximize River Street’s potential.” ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION The Savannah Waterfront Association is a nonprofit organization responsible for promoting, preserving and enhancing festivals and events for the public in the River Street area. For more information, visit http://riverstreetsavannah.com or call 912-234-0295.
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