Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sports, balloons, music a cash bonanza

May events to boost Decatur’s economy
By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

A stimulus plan a la Parks and Recreation. Rather than bailouts and tax credits, Decatur’s stimulus includes sports tournaments, hot air balloons and a Christian concert.

Officials expect the events to double the city’s population and inject more than $1.5 million into the revenue stream.

In May, the city will host two soccer tournaments, a softball championship, fishing competition, SoulStock and the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic.

Anchoring the event lineup are mainstays of Decatur’s recreation and entertainment scene — the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics softball championship, the Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup and the Alabama Jubilee.

“Last year, NAIA had an economic impact of about $1.1 million,” said Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “And the Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup brought in $224,000.”

In the last four years, the Alabama Jubilee averaged an economic impact of $258,500.

Combined, the three events brought $1.5 million to the city. Tourism officials are sure of those numbers. What remains a mystery is the impact of the new events.

“SoulStock, Crappie USA and the Mickey Holmes soccer tournament are new events so we don’t really know what to expect,” Reist said.

SoulStock organizer Phillip Presley said the city should prepare for thousands of youth and adults to crowd the Spirit of America field. In previous years, the music festival attracted 20,000 revelers.

Music, fishing

While Christian music fans gather at Point Mallard, fishermen will meet at Ingalls Harbor. One of three Super Events held annually, the Crappie USA fishing tournament will take place May 20-22. Crappie USA held the first Super Event in Columbus, Miss., in April. The event lured 100 anglers from 11 states.

For the Mickey Holmes tournament, Alabama Youth Soccer Association officials planned for a 40-team competition.

“We can track the hotel rooms during these events, but so much of the economic impact is not traceable,” said Parks Marketing Coordinator Julianne Lowman. “These visitors fuel up at our gas stations, eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores. Every single license plate seen in our parking lots is an extra dollar for the city.”

Parks Director Jeff Dunlap credited the return of old events and influx of new events to years of development and a team committed to the parks.

“We created a team of people years ago that had a focus and motivation to create an economic impact for the city through recreation,” Dunlap said. “We have done that, and people are coming to us asking us to host events because of our reputation.”

The team started out with Parks and Recreation and the CVB but expanded to include stores and restaurants, which help sponsor events.

“We are playing with a winning team. Everyone in the community seems to really understand the importance recreation can have on the economy,” Reist said.

More money generated through tournaments and events means more money available to upgrade facilities for tourists, but primarily for the citizens of Decatur.

“We try to touch on everyone’s recreational needs and enjoyment. If you look you’ll see we’ve done that. We bring in tourism to the city that helps us finance quality of life events for the public,” Dunlap said.

What’s happening in May Returning events

•Friday-Sunday and May 14-16: Alabama Youth Soccer Association State Cup. 2009 economic impact of $224,000.

•May 20-26: NAIA softball championship. 2009 economic impact, $1.1 million.

•May 29-30: Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival. 2009 economic impact, $258,300.

•May 29: J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center opens.
New events

•May 14-16: Alabama Youth Soccer Association Mickey Holmes Cup, a 40-team tournament.

•May 20-22: Crappie USA tournament, expected to bring in 100 anglers.

•May 22: SoulStock, 2008 event attracted 20,000 people.

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