By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
On the verge of securing a major soccer tournament, a city department and hospitality organization played their trump card.
If Decatur built a press box at the Jack Allen Complex, the city could host the 2010 and 2011 NAIA men’s soccer championships, officials from Parks and Recreation and the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau informed the City Council in July.
Jack Allen received the funding for the press box, but not the tournament.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics eliminated Decatur as a potential host of the 2010 and 2011 men’s championships, said Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tami Reist.
Although the NAIA did not tap Jack Allen, the addition of a press box allows the city to pursue other tournaments by providing an area for television, radio and Internet coverage typically required by high-profile competitions, Reist said.
The hosting opportunities span from lacrosse and Alabama High School Athletic Association soccer to future NAIA championships.
“We want to show our teams and student athletes that we want first-class facilities, and based on what I’ve seen, Jack Allen is first class, except it doesn’t have a press box,” said Scott McClure, NAIA’s manager for championship sports.
“Internally we were thrilled when we heard a press box was going up at the complex.”
When representatives visited the soccer complex three years ago, McClure said, the NAIA immediately ruled out Jack Allen as a host site for soccer tournaments due to the lack of a press box.
But in January, the athletic association awarded the 2009, 2010 and 2011 women’s championships to Jack Allen.
Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Dunlap said he anticipates contractors will complete construction of the press box before the NAIA women’s teams battle for the title in November.
“Hopefully, we can get it in before November, and if we do, that will save us that expense of having to pay for a temporary press box,” Dunlap said.
The city will finance the $150,000 press box through funds generated by the hotel room occupancy tax, a $2 rate charged per hotel room per night.
Since opening in 2006, Jack Allen has attracted international, collegiate and youth soccer tournaments to the city.
In the past three years, tournaments played at Jack Allen had a $4.3 million economic impact. The complex, featuring 11 soccer fields, cost $4.5 million to construct.
Reist expects the women’s tournament taking place Nov. 30 to Dec. 5 to generate an economic impact of more than $300,000. The possibility of Decatur hosting both the women’s and men’s championships exists, but the NAIA may require more improvements.
“There is potential of bringing both the men’s and women’s championships to the same site. Our hope is we’d have two equal facilities,” McClure said.
“Two equal facilities,” translates to two championship fields, both featuring press boxes.