KINGSPORT — Youth sporting events, such as AAU girls basketball and USSSA baseball, are hugely popular across the country, mostly recession-proof and can add up to big bucks for the communities that host the events.
For Kingsport, the economic impact of youth sports will likely approach $10 million for 2013, officials with the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday.
Since 1989, the Model City has hosted youth sporting events — mostly AAU events in the early years, but in recent years the KCVB has branched out to other youth and collegiate sports organizations along with creating its own invitational events.
This year, Kingsport has hosted AAU wrestling and girls basketball; AAC softball, baseball and basketball; USSSA NIT and 14U baseball; NAIA World Series Baseball and Mid South softball and baseball.
Jud Teague, executive director of the KCVB, said these events have had a $9.3 million economic impact for Kingsport. Given that the city will host four more events later this year, Teague said the economic impact of youth sports will exceed $10 million for 2013.
The most significant event was AAU girls basketball — with a $2.38 million economic impact; next were USSSA 14U baseball at $1.9 million and USSSA NIT baseball at $1.77 million.
Teague said the “simple formula” for calculating the economic impact is to take the number of athletes and spectators, multiple it by $77 a day for hotel expenses, food and other purchases, times the number of days in town.
“That’s very conservative since the national average is $208 a day,” Teague said.
Nationwide, 53 million traveling athletes participate in youth sporting events, generating an estimated $7 billion of economic impact, Teague said.
Since 2005, youth sporting events have had a $65 million economic impact on Kingsport, with $28 million alone coming from events held at Domtar Park. The numbers held pretty steady during the 2008 recession as well.
“We had people coming, but maybe not buying as much merchandise. One T-shirt instead of two,” Teague said. “Parents will travel with their kids to an event and not take that second vacation.”
The economic impact of youth sports in 2010 came in at an estimated $5 million for the Model City. In 2011, the number grew to $9.3 million, but it fell to $6.3 million in 2012. The reason for the two down years was because Kingsport did not host AAU girls basketball.
And that’s going to be the case again for the next two years.
To help offset this loss of economic activity, Teague said the KCVB is working with the state district chair for AAU girls basketball in creating a Kingsport invitational event, one where the city would host and not have to compete against other cities. Kingsport will again host AAU girls basketball in 2016.
In addition, the KCVB purchased two portable basketball courts and put them into use this year for a home-grown tournament, due to not hosting AAU girls basketball in 2010 and 2012.
In light of Eastman Chemical Co. announcing plans to replace its baseball and softball complex with a new office building, Kingsport has agreed to build a replacement complex and absorb the Eastman recreation leagues into its parks and recreation department.
While no hard numbers exist, Kingsport has earmarked $3.5 million for the construction of a new complex, likely with four fields.
During Monday’s meeting, KCVB officials made the case for the new complex, saying that without the new fields, Kingsport could miss out on three to four youth sporting events each year with an economic impact of about $4 million.
“At a minimum we have to have something in the four to five field range,” Teague said. “Amenities would be a central scoring facility, warm-up area, ample parking and location is very important for us. If (the complex) is out in the middle of nowhere, people don’t have anywhere to spend money.”
Teague told the BMA two cities, about 50 miles south of Kingsport, are planning to build new ballfield complexes, which will put them into the competitive category with the Model City. Adding a new ballfield complex to the city’s rank would put Kingsport ahead of that competition, Teague noted.
Kingsport is looking at a number of locations to build the new complex, but has not nailed down a suitable site.