The Holiday Inn Express on Highway 49 is about to add the word sportsplex to its name. That way athletes and their families will identify the hotel with the Gulfport Sportsplex three miles up the road.
"We want to take advantage of it," said the hotel's executive Asher Travis. "If you're coming to the sportsplex, then it ties into the Holiday Inn Express Sportsplex."
Travis's company is a major sponsor of the sportsplex. He knows his hotels will benefit from the 28 tournaments that the Southeastern Sports Management group have booked on these fields. This summer, an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old world series will both be played in Gulfport.
Southeastern Sports Management's President Tim Dulin said those events will be beneficial for the city.
"You can imagine at that age group, you have aunts and uncles and brothers and all the kids of relatives that will be here," Dulin said. "It will be a festive atmosphere."
When Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs got elected, he expressed some reservations about the sportsplex's mission. He was worried that local residents weren't using the city funded park.
But that's been resolved. Local people get the fields Monday through Thursday. As a result, the mayor is sold on the ballfields, because of what they can mean for Gulfport's economy.
"It's about providing a premium capability part of the time for the young people of our city," Combs said, "and providing an attraction to draw folks into our city."
In a month, this $500,000 sportsplex marquee will be on I-10. And late this summer, construction work on four more more ballfields should be done. When it's completely built out, the Gulfport Sportsplex will have 22 soccer fields and baseball diamonds, plus tennis courts, and a pool.
All the fields should be built by the summer of 2003. It may take another five or six years to build the pool and the rest of the indoor complex.
So far, Gulfport has spent $9 million on the sportsplex.