South Charlotte

Matthews Sportsplex proves a regional draw

As the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex in Matthews marks its first anniversary this month, the schedule for the coming year is filling.

Weekday practices began in the complex on Tank Town Road off Interstate 485 near U.S. 74 in September 2013, and tournament play began in October.

Preston Buckman, Athletic Coordinator with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, says the facility has been used pretty much nonstop since it opened.

Monday through Thursday, the fields are full of high school teams and a variety of club teams. Many weekends also are booked with tournaments.

“The first 10 months it was open, we had 10 different events with approximately 360 teams in attendance. From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, we already have 17 weekend tournaments booked, and we still have people making inquiries,” Buckman said.

With five multipurpose fields, tournaments have spanned a variety of sports, including soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and rugby.

The facility, a partnership between Mecklenburg County and Matthews, draws teams from Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and throughout the region.

“It’s been a great partnership with Mecklenburg County, and we are very thankful that we have the facility here,” said Matthews Town Manager Hazen Blodgett. “Amateur sports appears to be a recession-proof activity. Families will cut back on a lot of things, but if their kids are playing sports, they will continue to travel to watch their children.

“They want to eat, shop and sleep close to where their kids are playing, and it’s logical to think that they will do that in Matthews.”

The Sportsplex is scheduled to grow during phase two: Construction on a new road is set to begin in late October, and Buckman says construction on new fields should start early next year.

The complex currently contains five artificial-turf multipurpose fields, a picnic shelter, bathrooms and a playground. Phase two will add four additional artificial-turf fields, two natural-grass fields and a grass championship field with 2,700 seats and a two-story field house.

Walking trails and an additional playground are planned and will be built as funding permits.

Buckman said that, if all goes well, phase two should be complete about 18 months after construction starts.

The county has pledged $32 million to the entire project, with Matthews kicking in an additional $2 million. The facility is maintained and operated by Mecklenburg County.

Blodgett said that while the town doesn’t have hard numbers detailing the dollars the facility has brought to Matthews, he believes it’s been very beneficial to local businesses.

Robby Stringer, owner of Kristophers Sports Bar & Restaurant in downtown Matthews, says the Sportplex has boosted his business.

“It’s made a big difference here,” Stringer said. “Luckily they have to come in and out of the Sportsplex right by us. We’ve gotten a large boost in business when the tournaments are here.

“Most of the teams will come here with large parties of 10 to 20 people and fill up our patio. It’s worked out really well for us.”