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Sports complex draws youth, tourism dollars

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Camden Thompson, 10, Chandler Williford, 10, Andrew Facciolini, 10, and Jackson McLamb, 11, from left, chase a small football Saturday while playing at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. The four baseball players from Clinton play for the Clinton Stars which were among many youth teams competing in the Top Gun Winter World Series.

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John Henderson

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Rocky Mount Sports Complex continues to jolt the local economy, recently reeling in two of its biggest sports tournaments in the history of the complex.

Figures show the sports complex has provided a $27.5 million economic impact to the local economy in the last four fiscal years, a city study concludes.

The numbers do not include this past weekend or the coming weekend, which could significantly add to the numbers.

This past weekend, more than 2,000 visitors converged upon the Rocky Mount area as 200 youth baseball teams from throughout North Carolina, Virginia and other states traveled to the sports complex to participate in the Top Gun Winter World Series.

This coming weekend, youth soccer teams from throughout the nation will be competing in the Capital Area Soccer League National College Soccer Showcase Tournament.

More than 1,000 players, coaches and family members are expected to stay in local hotels and patronize local restaurants and businesses during the course of the three-day weekend event.

“The Rocky Mount Sports Complex has been a tremendous success for our community, not only in attracting thousands of visitors annually, but in providing an outstanding amenity to local residents and athletic programs,” Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs said. “As this facility continues to set attendance records, the sports complex only continues to prove its value to the community and to our local travel and tourism industry.”

The 143-acre multi-use facility, which cost $10 million to build from property taxdollars and a tax paid by hotel room guests, is located just off U.S. 64.

Completed in the fall 2006, the complex includes six youth baseball fields, four interchangeable baseball or softball fields, one championship baseball field, four soccer or football fields, a professional disc golf course, two outdoor basketball courts and a walking trail.

The project has more than paid for itself in economic benefit to the city, Assistant City Manager Peter Varney said Tuesday.

“I just never thought it would be as big as that,” Varney said.

The complex makes Rocky Mount as a whole a more appealing place to live, Combs said.

Any time tax money is invested in public projects like the Imperial Centre, the Braswell Memorial Library or a new sports complex, there are those who will question the expenditure, Combs said.

“But I think now that (the sports complex) is there, very few people question that it was good decision on the part of city to make that kind of investment,” Combs said.

Combs said the complex has earned a great reputation for its quality and easy access to Interstate 95 and U.S. 64.

Figures show that the complex drew 43,080 tournament players and guests in fiscal year 2007-08, 62,881 in 2008-09, 66,397 in 2009-10 and 74,332 in 2010-11.

An economic study by city officials that was based on a model provided by N.C. State University shows that the complex had $8.3 million in overall economic impact in fiscal year 2010-11, which ran from July 1, 2010 through June 30. The figure was $7.4 million in 2009-10, $7 million in 2008-09 and $4.8 million in 2007-08.

The figures include total direct economic impact as well as a multiplier of direct dollars being turned over in the local economy through job creation and other factors.

Walt Wiggins, a former Rocky Mount City Council member and a former athletics director of Rocky Mount Senior High School who advocated for the sports complex when he was on the council, said the city made a great investment in the complex.

“I think it is one of the best things we have done here in several years,” he said. “We started talking about it in 1998. We brought people in from all over to talk to us about (sports complexes).”

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