Elizabethtown hopes to attract sports tournament money - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Elizabethtown hopes to attract sports tournament money

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ELIZABETHTOWN, KY. (WDRB) -- American families last year spent an estimated $7 billion traveling with their children to youth sports tournaments.  Elizabethtown leaders are hoping to corral some of that cash with a dramatic new project.

Only by the narrowest of margins five years ago did Elizabethtown's mayor and council approve a local tax to fund an immense construction project west of town.  It's the Elizabethtown Sports Park, set to open next summer. 

Construction of the playing fields is under the direction of James Bergdoll, a turf specialist who's worked as a major league baseball groundskeeper.  "I've been here since Day One, since they started moving dirt around -- helped them finish the design features and oversee the construction itself, let this field of dreams become a reality for everyone involved."

It all started out as 150 acres of cornfield. Now, two years and $28 million dollars later, officials of the project believe it's an investment in the future, not just in the Elizabethtown of today, but the Elizabethtown of tomorrow.

Janna Clark of the Elilzabethtown Convention and Visitors Bureau says, "We have baseball tournaments on the books, soccer tournaments on the books, some football events.  And from there we'll just really ramp up and see what this park can accommodate.  We have 1500 hotel rooms in this community, and hundreds of restaurants that are ready to welcome visitors to this park."

What's funding the sports park is a restaurant sales tax that generates about $2.2 million a year.

The park will feature 12 baseball and softball diamonds, 10 natural grass soccer and football fields, two full-sized synthetic turf fields, and a diamond for athletes with physical disabilities.  The Kentucky Sports Authority, which promotes sports tourism, believes the Elizabethtown project is an economic extra-base hit.

Kevin Marie Nuss of the authority says, "We absolutely think there's a great return on investment in this. This piece of the sports tourism puzzle has stayed consistent.  People still want their kids to go out and be able to participate in those regional championships or those national events."

Concrete and brick buildings will house concessions and meeting spaces.  Stadium-quality lighting is installed on tall poles, and roads and parking lots are prepared for paving.  The park's new director, Seth Breitner, sees a diamond in the rough:  "Yeah, this is not your typical run-of-the-mill parks and recreation facility.  And this is as close to the big leagues as you can get for this type of facility."

It will be one of the largest complexes of its kind in the country, able to host four- and five-day tournaments to attract hundreds of teams and thousands of spectators.  At least that's the hope of local officials just waiting for the umpire to say, "play ball."

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