Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Sports tourism as an economic driver was the topic of Gardner’s Jan. 19 Economic Development Advisory Council meeting.
Other than approving the last meeting’s minutes, the only item on the agenda was the sports tourism presentation by Scott Garrie, parks and recreation director.
The title of the presentation was: “Investing in High Performance Public Spaces; How Gardner Can Benefit From a Comprehensive Sports Tourism and Community Recreation Study.”
Sports Tourism is defined as any activity in which people are attracted to a particular location as a participant or spectator in a sports event.
The presentation states that the mission of parks and recreation should be twofold: to provide quality community recreation to the citizens and at the same time, increase Gardner’s capacity to attract and host sports tourism events that provide economic growth.
Garrie has been involved in developing sports tourism facilities in other municipalities where he has worked and said he wants to do the same for Gardner.
These facilities are modern baseball/soccer field complexes intended to book sports league tournaments that would bring tourist into town for overnight stays.
Garrie says families will come to their child’s two-day tournament and embrace it as a mini-vacation. While here, they’ll need food, lodging and shopping for those two days in Gardner, he said.
According to the presentation, youth sports tourism is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry and refers to it as a “recession resistant economic engine.”
Garrie referred to several existing facilities: the Gateway Sports Village in Grandview, Mo., the City Center in Lenexa, Scheels Socceer Complex in Overland Park, and Paragon Star in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Facilities like these are obviously a major investment, said; The Paragon Star is a $400 million project. In addition to state of the art sports fields, also often incorporate civic space, meeting facilities, pools, retail shops and entertainment, either on or within walking distance of the facility.
There was a lot of back and forth discussion as Garrie moved through the presentation.
Garrie wants to commission a Sports Tourism Study.
The study would analyze existing park facilities, as well as potential multi sport tournament and recreation facilities that might include retail, commercial and residential development, and consider how to add the most value the entire community.
Larry Powell, business and economic development director, told committee that he and Garrie would write a recommendation for them to review and tweak.
Chris Morrow, mayor, suggested a joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) to review and consider recommendation.
Committee members agreed that was a good idea.
PRAC normally meets on the fourth Monday of the month. EDAC normally meets on the third Thursday.