Gulfport Sportsplex more than doubles tournaments in 2013 - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Sportsplex more than doubles tournaments in 2013

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

A new plan seems to be working out well for the Gulfport Sportsplex. Officials estimate in 2013 The Sportsplex will make a $34 million economic impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Up from $17 million from last year. 

The I-10 I-20 Blast Soccer tournament started as a way to encourage highly skilled Jackson area high school teams to come down to the Coast to compete. What began with six teams five years ago is now up to 45 teams and organizer said that is largely thanks to the Gulfport Sportsplex.

"All the Jackson teams that come down love our facilities," said Christopher Pryor, Gulfport High Soccer Coach. "There are a few others in the state but nowhere near as nice south of I-20 so this is something that we're proud of and this is a huge draw. This changes everything. We could not have a tournament without having the Sportsplex."

Gulf Coast United League Director Paul Martin said, "You get to see some great soccer because the better teams are playing the better fields."

Sportsplex officials said they've maximized field space so that various sports like soccer, baseball, and fast pitch softball tournaments can all go on at the same time. Weekend tournaments will jump from 34 in 2012 to 74 in 2013.

"What you see is the economic impact and I'll call it the economic engine that drives the revenue to the city of Gulfport," said Rusty Ramage, Sportsplex Manager. "As you know when they come in and have 70 to 80 teams a weekend or sometimes 120 teams a weekend, people are staying in hotels. They're eating in restaurants. They're buying gas. They're buying souvenirs. More importantly they have the Southern hospitality that they want to come back whether it be on the weekends they play or not play."

The staff said their game plan for years has been to provide the best experience possible for teams and build a good rapport with tournament promoters.

"To get out weekends and talk to these promoters and show them the support they need. Build that business relationship and return on that investment will bring you the major tournaments and retain that support you need for long term contracts," said Ramage.

Sportsplex officials said another advantage to their fields is the underground drainage system. So instead of canceling a tournament teams can play 40 minutes after the rain stops.

Coach Pryor said attractive top notch teams to the Coast benefits area soccer players. "For some of the smaller schools who don't have the budget to be able to travel three hours and take 40 players and spend the night," said Pryor. "To have those quality teams be able to come here to your front door step. You can't literally buy competition like that."

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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