• 81°

Sports complex proves its worth in first-year results

It is great when your best hopes become a reality. It’s even better when that reality far and away exceeds your hopes.

Such is the case with the Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi and the results from their first year — actually partial first year — of operation.

Those results were part of the annual report filed by the company with the city of Vicksburg this month. The annual report, along with quarterly reports, are filed as part of the company’s agreement with the city.

In the report, the company said tournaments and events at the park since opening weekend in February attracted more teams and visitors than predicted in its first-year forecasts. In total, 785 teams played at the park, with 135,000 visitors passing through the gates.

Teams also recorded 5,700 nights at area hotels and combined with their supporters, accounted for a $12.4 million economic impact in Vicksburg and Warren County. That’s just the first year.

In his letter to city leaders, Patrick Farno, Corporate Development Manager for Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi, said “the park has exceeded performance benchmarks established in the Operations, Management, and Use Agreement, and has established Vicksburg as one of the best sports destinations in the region.”

And while the report detailed the highlights of the park’s first, it also offered a challenge. What’s next?

“We are entering a pivotal time in the life of the complex as a decision needs to be made on whether to invest in additional elements at the park in order to drive additional growth in the market place,” Farno wrote.

Those additional elements cited in the report include the construction of two fields cut out of the original construction and the installation of lights for fields that were also removed from construction. The report claims those capital expense projects would open the park up for more teams, larger crowds and enhanced services.

As part of the agreement with the city of Vicksburg, Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi must hit benchmarks each year, primarily with the number of teams who compete throughout the year. The addition of those fields and lights would make that task easier. Unfortunately, the report does not provide at what cost those capabilities come with.

While there have been some tremendous successes, there are some growing pains the park, the community and the city must continue to work through. The park is aware of the challenge, according to the report, of better-recruiting teams and tournaments during the summer and fall months.

But, given the results of the first year, those growing pains have been worth it and future investment is needed and warranted.

Regardless of the positive results, the park will always have its detractors who will claim it came at far too high a price to the city and to taxpayers, but based on the economic impact results from the first year, those arguments are starting to carry far less weight.