By House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Etowah County has produced a lot of great athletes over the years, including several NFL players like Dre Kirkpatrick and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. In November, the “Lady Fusion 03” soccer team won the state championship in the U13 division.
We have a proud sports tradition here, and now more than ever we need a sports complex to accommodate these teams. Whether its you soccer like our state champion Lady Fusion team (soccer is the fastest growing sport in the country) or travel ball and little league baseball and softball teams, there is a significant need for a sports complex.
But a sports complex wouldn’t just be good for our children and their team sports. A sports complex would also be great for our local economy.
That’s because it wouldn’t just be our local teams that play on these fields and use these facilities. Sports complexes in other counties routinely host major tournaments, as well as regular season games and matches for teams traveling throughout the state.
When our girls won their soccer championship, they were playing on fields in Foley, Alabama in a tournament that hosted about 80 teams. The tournament brought about 2,500 people to Foley. Those people reserved about 500 hotel rooms, and spent thousands more dollars at local restaurants, stores and other businesses – and that was just for one weekend!
This is the opportunity that a sports complex could bring to Etowah County. Not only would our children benefit from the athletic facilities, but our local businesses would also benefit from customers coming in from all over the state, and possibly even from out-of-state.
As my colleague in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Becky Nordgren, has pointed out, local hotels will see double the length of stays thanks to the tournaments the complex will be able to host. How much more business will our restaurants receive once the complex is up and running? What about other local retailers; how much more business will they receive when parents go shopping during their down times?
The mega sports complex will do more for tourism in Etowah County than any other project we’ve had in years! And on top of that, the construction of the complex will also create jobs.
But the benefits go beyond local businesses and tourism. Studies have also shown that sports complexes and stadiums can actually increase property values.
When a sports complex or new stadium is built, it makes the county more visible and significant. It also increases the county’s public image, making us “the place to be” for youth sporting events.
As important as a sports complex would be for our children and their team sports, there’s nothing better for tourism and our local economy than building this sports complex. A sports complex would mean more people traveling to Etowah County, staying in our hotels, shopping in our stores and eating at our restaurants. It would also mean construction jobs as the facility is being built, and possibly higher property values as the sports complex raises our profile.