Winona Park Director Mike Narmour is checking cost estimates to install artificial turf on four ballfields at the Winona Recreational Park.
According to Narmour, the use of artificial turf at recreational parks is a growing trend throughout Mississippi to cut down on field upkeep as well as prevent rainouts at organized baseball and softball tournaments throughout the year. This past baseball and softball season was plagued with tournament rainouts at the Winona park, Narmour said.
These tournaments, with the growth of competitive youth baseball over the last decade, are big business for counties and municipalities with the draw of hundreds to thousands of players, coaches, and fans filling the parks, hotels, restaurants, and retailers, which brings in plenty of sales tax revenue.
As a native of DeSoto County, I know what a state-of-the-art youth sports venue can bring to a community. When Snowden Grove Park was built, followed by a complete makeover of Greenbrook as a softball facility, I never expected that to become a major catalysts for rapid growth in the City of Southaven. But it was.
Not only did the city see rapid and record retail and housing development, the population boomed, especially on the eastern side of the city in what is now known as the Snowden District. Currently, another large commercial development is underway just across from the entrance of the park, which now includes an outdoor amphitheater, indoor sports training facility, senior citizen center and more.
In Montgomery and Carroll counties, recreational youth sports is the largest tourism draw in both communities.
When Narmour was hired as director of the Winona Recreational Park in 2009, park revenues went from just under $39,000 to $130,000, mainly due to baseball and softball tournaments.
According to an interview with Narmour last spring, he organizes 12 tournaments each year, averaging 25 to 30 teams at each tournament. His largest tournament, the 82 Challenge Kickoff, held in February each year, will draw more than 70 teams.
Narmour said with the ball players, coaches, and fans, 500 to 1,300 people will visit the Winona Recreational Park for a tournament weekend.
For those large tournaments, additional fields are required, and Narmour works with Carroll County Recreational Park Director Art Hicks to handle overflow at the Carroll County Recreational Park in North Carrollton.
Hicks told me last spring that he has had up to 1,200 people visit the Carroll County Recreational Park during one tournament weekend.
Since 2009, park revenues have increased, and from that time, through 2017, the park has brought in more than $1.3 million in tournament fees, admissions, and concessions. That figure does not include the increase in sales tax from visitors eating, shopping, and staying at Winona’s restaurants, businesses, and hotels.
With the addition of the two percent tourism tax instituted in Winona in 2016 to be used for parks and recreation and tourism, the City of Winona is seeing additional revenue needed to make improvements at the recreational park. With the improvements and hopefully future expansions, the park will continue its draw as a youth sports center.
This will not only increase revenues for the city to improve and expand city services, but it grows the local economy – helping small, locally-owned businesses and making Winona an ideal place to develop commercially.
Best of all, those of us with small children who participate in local youth sports programs like soccer, football, baseball, softball, and basketball, it provides wonderful facilities in our own backyard.
An investment into our local recreational parks is an investment into the futures of Carroll and Montgomery counties. “If they build it,” they will come. I’ve seen that first hand.