Sports tourism is not a new concept in Longview, but improvements to the city’s sports fields could kick the idea into high gear in the years to come.
Longview Parks and Recreation Director Scott Caron said cities have realized the gifts of “win-win” sports tourism over the past five or 10 years.
“You can build great facilities that your residents can use and also attract tournaments and people from out of town,” Caron said. They spend money on food, hotels and gasoline. “The money they spend here stays here through sales tax and motel tax.”
Longview first started talking about the idea of sports tourism over 20 years ago, when the town began building what was originally to be a girls’ softball complex on a property known as Quail Farm. A donation of additional land next to the now deceased Longview businessman WG “Bill” Lear helped the town dream bigger. Longview has embarked on a year-long program that will soon see all elements of Lear Park completed, including new softball, baseball and soccer fields, the city’s first wading pool, KidsView Playground and Miracle Field. League which offers a place for disabled children. to play baseball.
Phase 5 construction will complete the Lear Park master plan in the coming weeks, Caron said.
“We are all excited to be able to … add to our inventory of fields, not just for our community, but for everyone who comes to Longview,” Caron said.
Work at Lear Park over the past two years has been paid for through the passing of a bond package totaling $108 million in 2018, which included $8.8 million for the completion of Lear Park , including: the addition of two 200-foot softball fields with lights, for a total of 10 softball fields; add two 300-foot baseball fields with lighting for a total of six fields; the conversion of two existing soccer fields to artificial turf and the installation of lights on two fields. The softball fields can also be used for baseball, and the lighting means the game can last well into the evening.
“We’ll have them much more flexible to use,” Caron said, with more fields in one place for tournament directors to use. Tournaments don’t have to be spread across multiple venues, he said, which cuts expenses and makes it easier for game planners, scorekeepers and referees.
Other improvements are also made to the fields of McWhorter Park.
The city is already seeing the effects of the new grounds on tournament activity.
Caron said the city uses conservative formulas to determine the effect of sports tournaments on the city’s economy. In 2021, Longview saw 75 tournaments of all kinds – baseball, softball, baseball, soccer or pickleball.
By comparison, the city already has more than half — 42 tournaments — that have made spring scheduling requests.
“We have to deny some of these requests,” Caron said.
Softball still has some capacity in the spring, and the fall will see baseball, softball and soccer tournaments. The Greater Longview Soccer Association usually holds a few tournaments a year, but these have come to a halt during COVID-19.
“We are starting to contact some (soccer) tournament directors outside of the Greater Longview Soccer Association to organize tournaments,” Caron said. “We wanted to wait until we had the turf fields in place before we really started doing that.”
With the 75 tournaments held at Longview in 2021, nearly 2,400 teams have played on Longview grounds. More than 60% of those teams came from out of town, Caron said. Each team averages around 11 players who typically travel with around three other people each. The city estimates this year’s tournaments generated 12,000 hotel nights, with families spending at least $80 a day for an estimated economic impact of $5 million – $75,000 in sales tax revenue alone, a Caron said.
Some formulas used to gauge the effect of sports tourism on the economy take into account how much spending multiplies in the economy to create jobs and additional spending, but Caron said the city doesn’t do that in his calculations.
“It’s a very conservative number,” he said.