Columbia, Mo., is making a play to boost the local economy by converting the Boone County Fairgrounds into a sports and recreation complex that it hopes will spur a sports tourism industry in the area.
Boone County officials in early December announced their plans to transfer ownership of the fair grounds to the City of Columbia. In 2014, a consultant feasibility study recommended an aquatic center, an indoor field house, which opened last year, and a baseball/soccer facility.
"Columbia will be able to host tournaments that can bring people in from out of town," director of Columbia Parks and Recreation, Mike Griggs told the local NBC affiliate. "In this case, what we are looking at facilities that can be used to benefit everyone that lives in and around Columbia."
The city hopes that the new turf fields and ball parks will allow local families to save money on tournament fees, and create a sports tourism destination that is available even during the winter.
"We will have five or six synthetic turf fields where, you know, you are going to play regardless of the weather," Griggs said. "You really can bring anywhere between 50 and 60 teams that can come in and they know they are going to play."
Grainne Redmond, mother of Columbia athlete, said she can spend hundreds of dollars on a weekend tournament in Kansas City or St. Louis.
"One weekend, depending on how many nights you stay in a hotel, could cost you a few hundred dollars per tournament," she said. "If our whole family goes, you're looking at $70 per dinner times two, lunch, breakfasts, which could end up being $400 just for one weekend."
The local hotel industry stands to benefit from the new facilities as well.
General Manager of the Courtyard by Marriott in Columbia, Eric Lawson, said he looks forward to the new guests.
"It would depend where the teams are coming from, length of stays, and the number of tournaments held," he said. "The addition will for sure have an increase in occupancy and revenue for the hotel market."