Big Money Made Off of Little Leagues
The United States Sports Academy has conducted a wide range of quality sport education programs throughout the world. Recently, I had a great opportunity to travel with a group of 19 Olympic/elite coaches from China who are associated with the Shanghai Administration of Sport. The group is in the US for six weeks fulfilling their final credits toward an international degree in sport coaching. The initial activities included a sport tour of Atlanta, Ga., where we visited different types of sport venues and had quality discussions with collegiate coaches in the area.
One of the hotspots on the tour was LakePoint Sporting Community. LakePoint promotes itself as the premier sports vacation destination, which features well-manicured baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, a cable wake park, and an indoor gym that houses 12 basketball courts that can be turned into volleyball courts. It is located in rural Emerson, Ga., which is approximately 35 miles north of Atlanta. There has been hesitation in support from the community due to the increase in traffic, yet the benefits are quite noticeable. LakePoint hosted over one million visitors in its first year. Future development includes building hotels, restaurants, retail stores, water parks, and other entertainment venues, to name a few.
These types of complexes seem to be popping-up all over the US and it is not necessarily a new concept but a growing one. Rising from the cornfields approximately 40 miles north of Indianapolis in Westfield, Ind., is Grand Park Events Center which has a similar concept as LakePoint. Mayor Andy Cook developed a plan to build a sports complex that would be able to host travel teams from around the country, whose families would spend their money in the area’s hotels and restaurants. An economic impact report commissioned by the city estimated $97 million in visitor spending in 2015 (King, 2016).
Since the inception of the NCAA championships and college bowl championships, I shake my head at the amount of money that is made and spent during just those times in the season. Now, it seems that the exploitation is trickling down to youth sports. These facilities are raking in money from families that have kids on travel teams. It is not necessarily targeted to the kids that have potential anymore, these tournaments are for all levels, willing to pay the price. Parents will forgo a regular family vacation to make sure their child and his or her team go as far as possible in league play. And, these grand sports sites are beginning to make the best of it by incorporating the stay and play mentality. Youth sports tourism wasn’t even a category a few years ago, and now it is the fastest growing segment in travel.
King, B. (2016). The sports playground. Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, 19(17), 16.
By Sandra K. Geringer
Sandra Geringer is Acting Director of Sport Studies at the United States Sports Academy. Geringer can be reached at email@example.com.