When Cornelius' Robbins Park and the Westmoreland Athletic Complex are completed in 2015, they could generate more than $7 million a year from sports tourism for the Lake Norman area.
The target market expected to pump that money into the local economy will be participants and family members of amateur softball and baseball tournaments for youths and adults, said Travis Dancy, sports marketing manager for Visit Lake Norman, the convention and visitors bureau for Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville.
The 20-acre WAC will adjoin the 116-acre Robbins Park. They are being built in western Cornelius near the intersection of W. Catawba Avenue and Westmoreland Road. The town will contribute nearly $10 million for both projects. $500,000 will come from an N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant.
Robbins Park, scheduled to be completed in 2015, will include athletic fields, nature trails, observation points, a community garden, picnic shelters, restrooms, a water-based playground and an 18-hole disc golf course.
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The WAC, off Westmoreland Road, will be a baseball/softball facility and a park with various amenities. Construction for Phase I will include two ball fields, a restroom/concession building, a playground and parking. It is scheduled to be completed by September. The field turf will need a year to grow, so fields should be ready for play in the fall of 2011, but officials may put down sod to accelerate use. Phase II will include the addition of two more fields, lighting for all fields and additional parking. This phase is expected to be completed in 2011.
The fields will be the only tournament-caliber fields in Cornelius, Dancy said. The parks and fields also will be open for public use.
"Most baseball and softball tournament organizers aren't going to deem a facility a tournament facility unless it has four or more contiguous fields at one location," Dancy said. "As it stands right now, Cornelius has three parks with two baseball/softball fields at each of them."
Paul Herbert, director of the Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation & Culture Department, said sports tourism will bring people to the area, but the park will be a great asset for the community as well.
"We on the recreation side are thrilled to have these amenities," he said. "We're also thrilled to know our PARC Department and the town board see the business aspect and the economic impact of this development. It will be good business for the city.
"Some see it as purely a recreational thing, but I think the overriding impact will bring thousands of people every year to Cornelius to enjoy the area, spend money in the hotels and impact our small and large business people."
The future Robbins Park was initially purchased by Mecklenburg County in 2001 to provide open space for Lake Norman residents. To expedite development, the town of Cornelius leased the property from the county and began a master planning process in 2004.
The $7 million tourist revenue number was derived from the same formula used by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), which town officials and Dancy say is a conservative estimate.
Basically, it breaks down like this: Take the number of tournament participants (players, coaches, family members) and multiply it by number of event days. Then multiply that by $134, the average amount spent each day by each person, according to an independent study commissioned by CRVA.
The current multiplier used by Visit Lake Norman is $100, but starting July 1, it will use the $134, a figure the CRVA currently uses, Dancy said. By the time the park facilities are complete, that multiplier will probably be even higher.
Cornelius will host at least 20 two- or three-day tournaments a year. Officials expect about 28 teams to compete on the six fields at Robbins Park and the WAC. Each team averages about 51 people - including families of the players and coaches - a figure Dancy got from the National Association of Sports Commissions.