Valdosta Daily Times


July 13, 2014

The Business of Sport

Sports tournaments pump millions into local economy

VALDOSTA — You’re probably familiar with the sights and sounds of a summertime ball game: the crack of a bat, the thwack of a ball hitting a glove, the dust kicked up by a runner’s slide suspended in the setting sun.

What you might be less familiar with is the financial impact a game of baseball or softball can have on a community.

Two years ago, the Valdosta Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority started focusing more on baseball and softball tournaments, particularly adult tournaments.

“We have great facilities and we have a great location,” said VLPRA Executive Director George Page. “We’re three hours south of Atlanta. We’re three hours north of Tampa, Orlando area, central Florida. We’re right on I-75; I-10 is close; I-95 is a few hours away. We’re really in a great location.”

Page started attending conventions for the traveling sports tourism industry, exhibiting the ball fields, amenities and conveniences that Valdosta and Lowndes County have to offer.

Between those trips, word of mouth and the work of the rest of the VLPRA staff, Lowndes County’s reputation as a go-to venue for hosting tournaments solidified during the last couple of years.

VLPRA takes this reputation seriously; to keep it, the authority works to provide the best facilities possible for visiting teams.

Ball fields are laser graded and crowned each year; clay is added as well as in-field conditioner.

“We’re trying to take care of our fields and present the best possible product.”

A turf-management program is in place for all outfields and infields. They’re irrigated and fertilized and the outfield is dressed with sand.

It’s done to keep the fields looking good both for visiting tournaments and local teams, but it also helps manage the inevitable South Georgia rainfall.

“When you host tournaments, one of the things you want to make sure you do is finish the tournament. Sometimes you’ll get rain or inclement weather. It can rain an inch, inch and a half, and we’re playing baseball or softball tonight, whereas most places you go to you’re done for the day or the evening.”

The VLPRA also works to take care of the little things: emptying trash cans routinely, cleaning restrooms on the hour, picking up trash in the bleachers throughout the day.

“We want them to remember Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority as being the best.”

Utilizing Freedom Park, South Lowndes Recreation Complex and Vallotton ball fields, VLPRA has hosted 19 softball and baseball tournaments and six tennis tournaments so far this year.

These 25 combined tournaments have directly impacted the local economy to the tune of $2,522,276.

Direct impacts, as calculated by the Georgia Department of Tourism, consider things such as hotel rooms for out-of-town teams, gas purchased, meals bought and various supplies a traveling baseball team might need.

One tournament, the biggest, accounted for 1,298 hotel nights; in total, the last six months have accounted for more than 4,600 room nights.

The GDT also measures indirect impacts: restaurants hiring more servers for tournament weekends, a local clothing store having to order more shirts to replace stock purchased by visitors, the VLPRA hiring maintenance or ground crews to handle the weekend inflow of sports fans.

The indirect impact of the hosted tournaments this year is $1,356,082, for a total impact of $3,878,358.

By year’s end, Page hopes the VLPRA can break $6 million in total economic impact for 2014.

In the next few years, the VLPRA looks to diversify its facilities to go after a larger piece of the sports tourism industry.

“We really haven’t even scratched the surface on the sports tourism industry here in Valdosta-Lowndes County. We just started with baseball, tennis and softball. There’s many other areas we have not really gone after … soccer, basketball, volleyball, they are untapped right now. But trust me, we’ll be tapping into those markets in the very near future.”

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