Copyright 2014 The Evansville Courier Co.
All Rights Reserved
For Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, seeing a large pile of dirt with a line of shovels, typically gold-painted, positioned behind it is exciting. Winnecke said most people in public office would probably agree with him because they usually indicate a groundbreaking for a new construction project. That was the case Tuesday afternoon as the mayor, with other city, county and state elected officials, spoke at a groundbreaking for an Evansville sports complex on North Green River Road, adjacent to the Goebel Soccer Complex.
"With the completion of this sports complex, the (Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau) will have invested over $28 million in quality of life investments so far in our community. This new sports complex is a further testament to the success we are achieving throughout our community," Winnecke said.
The planned $14 million baseball and softball complex is expected to boost local tourism and create a tournament venue for youth baseball teams, as well as youth and adult softball. It will include eight fields, concession stands, a playground, a one-mile walking and wellness trail and a fountain. Wi-Fi towers, as well as other digital features will be available to provide for entertainment and other gatherings beyond just sports.
Money to fund the project will come from the Vanderburgh County lodging tax paid by visitors staying at local hotels. Bureau officials said the complex will be owned, maintained and operated by the organization.
Bureau Executive Director Bob Warren said construction likely will get underway in two or three weeks. It will include groundwork with excavation and utilities, field turf, lighting and ancillary structures.
With an Indiana Amateur Softball Association slow pitch tournament already scheduled for July 2015, officials expect the fields to open for play next spring.
"It's about economic development for our industry and our county," Warren said. "This facility, once it's built and we stabilize it with ball tournaments, it should generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million to $16 million annually in direct expenditures.
"And if that can't make you happy, I don't know what can make you happy. I think our community has done this one right."
John Montrastelle, Bureau board president, told attendees the tourism industry represents 6,400 employees that welcome more than 4.3 million visitors who generate an estimated $523 million annually in the local economy. He said the most direct benefits to the economy will be spending on lodging, restaurants, shopping and transportation.
Montrastelle said the county's lodging tax has made the new sports complex the largest single quality-of-life investment ever by the CVB.
Vanderburgh County Council President Tom Shetler said the sports complex is a "win-win" for everyone, and the best part is "the guy in Peoria (Ill.) is paying for it."
CVB officials said the goal is to secure 20-25 youth baseball and youth or adult softball tournaments a year. Within four years after it opens, officials hope it draws as many as 200,000 visitors per year.
Vanderburgh County Commission President Joe Kiefer said the complex will be great for the community and job growth.
"I know, as a parent of four kids, I have to travel to other communities to watch them play in soccer tournaments or baseball tournaments, but now, with this great complex, we can do that right here in Evansville," Kiefer said.
"This facility, once it's built and we stabilize it with ball tournaments, it should generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million to $16 million annually in direct expenditures."
Bob Warren, Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director