In today’s hypercompetitive youth sports landscape, some parents are willing to dish out whatever money it takes to give their child the best chance to succeed in whatever activity they are participating in.Now, local communities are joining in on the trend.
Over the past few years, communities have spent millions of dollars building state-of-the-art facilities for youth sports. These palaces are becoming more and more extravagant with the goal of bringing in teams from around the country in an effort to increase tourism revenue. And even as costs soar, many communities are doubling down, arguing the benefits outweigh the growing price tags.
Teams traveling far distances to go to tournaments is nothing new. For decades, families have been packing up the car and heading out to wherever a regional or national tournament may be.
Communities have taken notice of these traveling tournaments. In 2016, more than $10.5 billion was spent on travel for youth sports tournaments, according to Forbes. Once families get to their destination, they often spend a lot in said city. That tourism money is helping some cities stay alive.
With that in mind, communities are willing to do whatever it takes to hold these tournaments. In today’s world, that means having world-class facilities.
Disney was one of the first to jump on this trend when it built its Wide World of Sports complex about 20 years ago in the Orlando area. This facility brings in thousands of athletes each year for events in more than 60 sports.
Other cities have since picked up on this trend. In 2014, Westfield, Indiana, opened a 400-acre sports complex that cost $49 million. The facility was completely funded by the public.
As time has gone on, the costs to these facilities have gone up. In Gurnee, Illinois, the city recently spent $48,000 just on a feasibility study for a youth complex.
Though the prices for these facilities are eye-popping, many communities have decided it’s worth it in the end. And thus far, it has shown in certain communities. The facility in Westfield brought in 1.5 million visitors in 2016. A similar facility in Seminole County, Florida, brought in 58 tournaments in its first nine months of operation and generated $25 million in revenue.
There are some out there who are skeptical of this trend. That includes Amateur Athletic Union CEO Roger Goudy.
“I just think it's going to come to a point where there is going to be a glut of these things and it's hard to pay the bill,” Goudy said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It is a competitive marketplace.”
As the success stories of these facilities continue to come out, it’s hard to see this trend going away. Especially as more and more parents are willing to travel and dish out whatever it takes to give their kids a chance to succeed in sports.
“More teams are going each and every year, because the one thing we found is families will always invest in their kids no matter what,” Jim Arnold, director of business development for The Sports Force & Fields, a planning and management company, told the AP.
From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson
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