MANKATO — Chris Willaert, a longtime financial services and insurance salesman in Mankato, will be the new director of the Mankato Sports Commission starting Feb. 23, according to Visit Mankato President Anna Thill.

The commission was created last year by Visit Mankato, the local tourism organization, and aims to bring sports events to the area, assist local organizations that are hosting tournaments and promote the sports industry, including the development of facilities.

Along with Willaert's sales experience, most recently with Hatanpa State Farm, he has years of tournament experience through his work with MN/USA Wrestling and as an event director for MN/USA Wrestling State Championships. Thill said Willaert was chosen from a list of more than 30 candidates.

Willaert may also have another major task in front of him if Mankato and North Mankato move forward with plans to extend their local option sales taxes, partly to fund $22 million in new and expanded sports facilities. Along with providing advice on the facilities, the sports commission would have a major role in trying to garner support for the sales tax extension, which would require majority support in voter referendums in each city.

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