Youth sports is a continuously growing industry in the tourism world, and Cabarrus County is no exception. To capitalize on the potential, local movers and shakers have proposed renovating several field spaces—including a few high schools—to artificial turf.
The Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau presented the idea to commissioners at their Monday, July 1, work session. The proposal suggested turfing two high school fields as well as two at Frank Liske Park, putting the work order in to coincide with the work at the new West Cabarrus High School to hopefully work out a deal.
“Youth football, lacrosse, flag football, field hockey, soccer, quidditch—for some sport is amazing—and rugby,” John Poole with CVB said. “Those are all at our fingertips, and we have opportunities and we have relationships in place currently to move forward with that business. The sports market is growing and will continue to grow.”
Donna Carpenter, president and CEO of CVB, proposed using the $1.6 million currently in the sports fund, which comes from the CVB occupancy tax, to turf the football fields at Cox Mill and Jay M. Robinson high schools as well as two fields at Frank Liske Park. Central Cabarrus and the new West Cabarrus High Schools would also be turf, and A.L. Brown High School is currently undergoing the process, as well.
Carpenter said they chose the high schools closest to hotels to make it easier for traveling sports teams.
If the project exceeds that $1.6 million, Carpenter suggested commissioners front the cost and use the CVB occupancy tax—which is currently about $300,000 a year—to repay the amount.
“That would be dedicated to pay that back before any other monies would be spent or asked for,” she said. “We just want to start the conversation. We know it will be cheaper to do it all while they’re here if they’re here doing West Cabarrus. Maybe we can get a discount on the other fields, maybe save us some money.”
Carpenter added that occupancy tax revenues can only fund tourism-related projects.
“This would not be a typical expenditure that we would be able to use to up fit or upgrade a current high school,” she said. “But if it is a tourism project, this affords us the opportunity to not only use this for tourism-related tournaments that would be used at those high schools, but it would also afford us an opportunity to help the high school upgrade their fields.
“And it’s one of those things where it only happens every so often that we’re able to use occupancy tax that really helps to benefit the local residents. This is a wonderful project in our eyes.”
And turf has a myriad of benefits, Poole said. It’s in high demand from many of the sports leagues, it can support play year-round and in inclement weather, and it requires less maintenance.
“There are a lot of different opportunities, but the biggest thing is they need product to sell, and they have customers that are sitting there waiting for it,” County Manager Mike Downs said. “I think that if you have a dedicated revenue stream to pay for those additional fields, then I think it’s a pretty doable project.”
Commissioners seemed to support the pursuing the idea.
“It sounds very positive,” commissioner Blake Kiger said. “The next step is we’ve got to see how much money we are talking about.”