Today, the Travis County Texas plan to spend between $14 million and $20 million on a new 70-acre tract for soccer, baseball and softball fields is hardly a shocking headline. After all, Travis County encompasses Austin, TX, home of University of Texas football, and one of the fastest-growing (and richest high tech centers in the country).
Just outside of Dallas, in Frisco, you’ll find the $80 million, 20,500 capacity Toyota Stadium, but that’s also home to the MLS FC Dallas team. In McKinney, just 30 miles from Dallas, will soon rise America’s most expensive high school stadium ever built. Voters in the city of about 150,000 in May of 2016 approved a $50.3 million bond proposal that, when coupled with $12.5 million approved in 2000, will enable the school district to construct a $62.8 million, 12,000-seat stadium. The city of Allen has the $60-million, 18,000-seat Eagle Stadium. Katy, Tex., and is presently building a $62.5-million stadium that is set to open in 2017. Frisco school district teams will play in a facility called The Star, a $255.5-million collaboration involving the Dallas Cowboys, who will practice there, the city of Frisco and the Frisco school district. Frisco, Allen and McKinney are located just a few miles apart, north of Dallas.
Sixty-three percent of McKinney voters approved the measure, which was part of a $220 million bond package to provide other improvements to schools, and will also be used for soccer games, band competitions and state football games. An adjacent activity center will be available for other events and developers hope that retail and restaurant development near the site will follow.
And while League Network readers are always fascinated by the massive cost of these giant Texas stadiums, the youth sports tourism business has caused a surge in investment in single- and multi-sport facilities nationwide.
Dev Pathik, founder of Sports Facility Advisory in Clearwater, Florida, says, “Because of the youth sports explosion, we get calls every day about projects worth $150 million to $200 million.” One of the projects that SFA launched is Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The $20 million, 86,000-square-foot multisports facility opened in 2014 to rave reviews and capacity crowds. Mayor Mike Warner said the complex brings big economic benefits, in part because Gatlinburg offers families something to do besides sit in a hotel room between events.
“There’s often a lot of waiting for parents and kids,” he said. “So we have new restaurants, stores and other local attractions for people. We’re expecting an economic impact of around $50 million over the next five years.” Asked how Gatlinburg could afford the complex in today’s economy, Warner said his city doesn’t have budget constraints and issued bonds with the county for additional funds. “We had a reserve fund and the ability to do this,” he said. “And we are a tourist destination. … Our tourism dollars have remained strong even during the economic downturn.”
Youth sports as a tourist-attracting magnet? Who would have guessed?