City sets compass on sports tourism
By Matt Caulder
Published in News on July 26, 2013 1:46 PM
Goldsboro is aligning itself to take advantage of an emerging source of revenue for the city as well as the county -- sport tourism.
Sport tourism is a growing industry in which people will travel to an area to participate in sports, whether that be a child participating in a tournament or traveling to an ATV park for a weekend of offroading.
Betsy Rosemann, director of Travel and Tourism with the Chamber of Commerce of Wayne County, said that during the recession the corporate travel money the city was used to seeing is diminishing, but that sports tourism continues to grow.
"Sports tourism was almost recession-proof," she said. "We needed a way to replace those corporate dollars."
The city and county make money from travel through occupancy taxes and hotel taxes directly as well as through taxes on food and goods bought while the travelers are in the area.
In 2011, $138 million came into Wayne County from travel dollars surrounding events, business trips and also military reservists coming to the area, Mrs. Rosemann said.
"There is a tremendous opportunity for sports tourism for areas that have the land and the parks like we do," she said.
The chamber has been advertising Goldsboro and Wayne County in different sports magazines to bring in sports travelers as well as bidding on tournaments.
"You bid on the tournaments a lot like a grant," Mrs. Rosemann said. "You apply and a selection committee comes out to tour your facilities to decide whether to have their tournament there."
She plans to apply for disc golf tournaments once the courses are completely laid out.
When it comes to size, Goldsboro has an advantage over cities like Raleigh, Mrs. Rosemann said.
"There is a lot of competition for events, and they like communities who wrap themselves around an event," she said.
For example, $120,000 from Goldsboro Travel and Tourism is going to resurface and re-light the tennis courts at Herman Park starting in July, as well as $100,000 from the Parks and Recreation budget.
The courts are being re-done to prepare for two United States Tennis Association tournaments coming to Wayne County in the fall of 2013 and 2014.
A new facility could be coming for Goldsboro that would become a large part of city's, as well as Wayne County's sport tourism engine -- a multi-sports facility built in partnership by the city of Goldsboro and the Goldsboro Family YMCA.
The complex could be located next to the YMCA, but Berkeley Park was also suggested at the June 17 City Council meeting.
"Parks and Recreation has an untold economic impact on the city," Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said. "With out-of-town family reunions renting shelters and the other facilities, it brings in cash to the area beyond the rentals."
City Manager Scott Stevens and Barnard visited Rock Hill, S.C., to tour the city's soccer facility -- eight soccer fields that are rented out for tournaments on weekends almost every year. The complex hosts 42 tournaments a year.
"One thing that struck me about Rock Hill was that Parks and Recreation and Tourism are all one department," Stevens said. "They did that 15-20 years ago. They saw that connection sooner than others."
Rock Hill also has a similar baseball complex the city built before the soccer complex as well as a velodrome, a bicycle track built for racing.
The Goldsboro facility would feature real and artificial turf fields that could be used to play soccer, lacrosse, football or rugby.
Sport tourism is not only limited to public facilities. Privately owned facilities such as Busco Beach can be a big player in bringing dollars to an area.
Other examples of sport tourism in Wayne County are the American Motorcyclists Association races, which were held at Busco Beach, and ATV Park, which will be returning for a third time this year.
A group of cyclists is expected to spend the night in Goldsboro on its way from the North Carolina mountains to the coast Oct. 3, Mrs. Rosemann said.
Between 1,000 and 1,500 cyclists are expected to come into Goldsboro that day.