GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Right now, the Gulfport Sportsplex consists of 13 fields for baseball and soccer. By next year, that number will grow significantly, thanks to an $8.5 million expansion currently underway.
Eight new fields are coming, six for baseball and two for soccer and football, all with synthetic turf that looks and feels like real grass.
"We're going to have water coolers in our dugouts, fresh cold water, as well as fans in our dugouts," explained Sportsplex Manager Rusty Ramage. "The fields that you see are elevated so it gives you that stadium concept so that you look down upon a field."
Expanding the sportsplex makes sense to Leisure Services Director Gus Wesson.
"Anytime you have the opportunity to improve sports tourism along the coast, the city of Gulfport, it's a big deal. And fortunately, we grabbed that opportunity," Wesson said.
He added that even without the expansion, the sportsplex is a moneymaker.
"In 2016, we had an estimated 70,000 people visit this complex and that's an economic impact of around $15 million to the city of Gulfport."
And where does that money go?
"Restaurants on the weekends when we have a big tournament are full of teams. Gas, lodging, entertainment, and outlet malls, Crossroads, everybody sees a huge impact from the sportsplex," said Jase Payne, Marketing Director for the City of Gulfport.
Once the multi-million dollar expansion is complete in April 2018, it will have the latest and greatest of just about everything. But you still have to get the word out.
"We have a great social media campaign. We're going to be doing digital advertisement. We'll also attend conferences where there is sports tourism and trying to pull those tournaments into the sportsplex," Payne explained.
In addition to everything else, a huge Gulfport city logo will be painted in the center of the expansion, so anyone flying over the complex will be able to see it.