Johnson City looking to improve ball fields to attract more sports tourism

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- Johnson City is looking to bring more sports tournaments to the area.

Gavin Andrews, the Director of Sports Development at the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau said the sports fields all over Johnson City are at capacity.

He said a recent study showed to compete with the other cities in the region in attracting tournaments, Johnson City needs to expand existing fields and potentially build new ones.

“It was suggested in the National Association of Sports Commission study that we need preferably ten or 11 diamond fields all in one location or very close to each other and to add turf to rectangle fields that we already have and build at least a few more,” Andrews said.

The hope is to attract tournaments and tourists.

“It’s definitely a recession resistant type of economic development. We saw growth here even during the recession as far as sports tourism, a lot of families use that as a mini vacation,” Andrews said.

And that vacation spills out beyond the ball fields, “It’s estimated that over a three day tournament they leave as much as $1 million in our community of direct spending,” Johnson City Vice-Mayor Jenny Brock said.

But now as far as competing for sports tournaments, “With the surrounding communities like Spartanburg, Gatlinburg, Atlanta that are building brand new sports complexes it’s getting tougher and tougher to compete to bring those national events,” Andrews said.

Johnson City lost a softball tournament to Spartanburg last year.

“They had all their fields in the same proximity,” Brock said.

“We have competed great for the last 21 years but just recently we kind of fell short as far as being able to bring in those tournaments,” Andrews said.

So now Johnson City is looking to flip the field. Brock said the city is now looking at space to expand and develop.

“Were looking at that return on investment on the sports tournament side to see if it’s a good business deal to do this and then we’re looking at how we would fund it,” Brock said.

Andrews said the taxpayer money spent on these improvements isn’t just to bring in tournaments, “It’s also because there’s a citizen need and we’re already at capacity for all of the leagues the city runs as it is,” Andrews said.

Brock said over time, the hope is the tournaments will help pay for expanding and building new fields.

She said Johnson City is entering in to the budget process now and will work through a lot of the questions on how to move forward from here within the next couple of months.

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