Whether you’re sitting in the stands at City Stadium, cheering on the sidelines of your child’s soccer game or playing basketball with friends in your driveway, there is a common thread among sports of all varieties and skill levels—they build community. For an hour or two we put all of our other worries aside and play—or cheer—our hearts out… many times alongside people we may not interact with much at any other point in time.

That’s the warm, fuzzy part. But you know what’s another awesome benefit of the wonderful world of sports?

MONEY.

According to a study from the National Association of Sports Commissions, the sports tourism industry made an impact on the U.S. economy worth $11.4 billion in 2017. Thankfully, local economic development leaders recognized the potential for this industry in Central Virginia years ago. Not only did we secure an agreement to hold the Virginia Commonwealth Games at Liberty University from 2016-2021, the Hill City will take its hosting skills to the next level with the State Games of America in July. Starting on page 27, hear what it took to bring this event to the region and how the city is preparing for an influx of 35,000 visitors.

Also inside, we are telling the stories of two local sports-centered businesses. TaleTellers Fly Shop opened in Downtown Lynchburg this year following a thriving online business. And in our Business Over 10 Years profile, learn about the incredible renovations at Poplar Grove Golf Club in Amherst, a gorgeous course that’s not going to stay a “hidden gem” much longer.

How does your company score when it comes to happy, fulfilled employees? Our annual Best Places to Work Awards feature 9 local businesses, each with an outstanding company culture worth bragging about. We selected this year’s winners based on nominations from employees themselves. See who made this year’s list on pages 30-36.

One common thread we found when selecting this year’s Best Places to Work winners was that employees often celebrated their company’s sense of community—everyone is a team player.

If you think about it, the lessons we learn from sports as a child can help us at the office as an adult. At the end of the day or the quarter, no matter what has happened or how you feel, remember to shake hands with everyone and say, “good game.”

Shelley Basinger, Managing Editor
Shelley@lynchburgmag.com