The Mooresville Travel & Tourism Authority is spending tens of thousands of dollars to put up new nets around some soccer fields at the Mazeppa Park recreation complex.
The nets, which cost a total of about $50,000 and are expected to go up this month, are themselves nothing unusual. The authority maintains the six soccer fields, which it built years ago.
But they are significant because they would make the fields more suitable for lacrosse tournaments for the first time, replacing the existing nets, which have larger nets that prevent only soccer balls, not lacrosse balls, from leaving the boundaries. The lacrosse tournaments are expected to be held in coming years, and tourism officials believe that they would help lift the fortunes of local businesses, particularly hotels.
When other youth tournaments are underway on weekends at the Mazeppa Road park, “we fill (the hotels) up,” said Ron Johnson, chairman of the authority.
Funded by hotel occupancy taxes, the authority works to promote the town as an attractive place to visit, directing money towards things like billboards, brochures and social media. “We spend our money only on things that will put people in more hotel rooms,” Johnson said.
The authority is part of the Mooresville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which pledged $650,000 toward a planned aquatic center at a commercial and residential complex near Exit 31 off Interstate 77.
A major source of revenue for hotels here is corporate travel, especially given that the town is home to the international headquarters of the home-improvement retailer Lowe’s. “That’s our bread and butter” during the workweek, he said.
Even so, the soccer fields have remained a reliable draw in Mooresville. It owns the recreation complex, at the northern end of town, which also includes baseball and softball diamonds.
Last fall, the fields were among others between here and Charlotte that were the scene of a two-week youth soccer tournament that drew some 230 teams from across the Southeast and beyond.
Early this month, the town approved a $27,000 contract with a turf company to plant new grass on four of the fields that were damaged by winter weather. The fields are expected to grow back in a few months or so, Johnson noted.
The authority is receiving inquiries about lacrosse tournaments, he noted. While none are scheduled, it is hoping to do so over the next year, possibly as soon as this fall.
A somewhat uncommon sport in the Charlotte area and across the Southeast until recent years, lacrosse is gaining in popularity, attracting the attention of boys and girls alike.
“It’s really coming on strong,” Johnson said.
Indeed, when James Brugger helped form the recreational lacrosse team Lake Norman United shortly after moving here from Long Island, N.Y., in 2005, teams were few and far between.
“We would have to travel around everywhere,” recalled Brugger, who also coaches the boys’ lacrosse team at Lake Norman High School, citing trips to as far as Greensboro. The team comprised players from two school teams in the area.
These days, though, the region is home to a number of recreation league teams, with more divisions to accommodate them. As for the Lake Norman team, it is working with the town’s recreation department to use more fields.
“This is a great place to play,” Brugger said of lacrosse, citing the area’s generally temperate climate.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer. Have a story for Jake? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.