Gulfport Sports Complex Is Making Strides For The Future

The Gulfport Leisure Services Director says he believes the city's sports complex has the potential to be self-sustaining in about the next five years. That's partly because the company that manages the multi-million dollar complex has booked more than twice the number of tournaments as last year.

The Gulfport Sports Complex was a big hit with many players, coaches and parents in town for a girls softball tournament this weekend. In fact some people described it as the best facility they'd seen.

Stanley Brooks came from Louisiana to watch his daughter play in the tournament.

"We got cypress stumps in the field and everything else. We've got rugged fields and everything else. This one's the best. Nice smooth fields. Pretty greens. This is it."

As the Gulfport Coastliners geared up for some tough competition the girls' coaches talked about how much easier it's gotten for local teams to play here. At one time, the sports complex drew sharp criticism because local teams were having trouble getting access to the facilities.

"A lot of that is trying to work out scheduling, trying to work out opportunities for local kids to play here," softball coach Barry Foster said. "They had wonderful soccer year this year with local children. I think a lot of that is you have to see how it works as you go."

City officials say their partnership with Southeastern Sports Management is working in tax payers favor.

"The national leagues require you to pay a fee up front. It can be anywhere from 10 to 20 to 30 thousand dollars just to bring the tournament in here," Leisure Services Director George DeCoux said. "Under this contract, they are required to pay so the city does not have to pay it, and therefore that's a tremendous advantage for us."

Officials say what's made the biggest difference in trying to lure tournaments is having more baseball fields to work with this year, and the good news is there are even more fields on the way.

Poe Symmes manages the sports complex for Southeastern Sports Management.

"Once these more fields get built we'll be able to attract a lot more teams to come into the area which is good for the hotels, the restaurants, shops malls and so forth," Symmes said.

Gulfport Sports Complex officials say they've already heard from sponsors interested in advertising on the $560,000 sign that went up last week. Leisure Services Director George DeCoux says the sign should turn a huge profit once the loan the city took out to buy it is paid off.

By Danielle Thomas