Sportsplex Tries To Rebound From Katrina Slide - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sportsplex Tries To Rebound From Katrina Slide

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In 2004, 46 tournaments held their championships at the Sportsplex. So far this year, 10 events and 450 teams have come to Gulfport. The numbers may be down, but Sportsplex directors are encouraged by what they're seeing.

As the Kat 5 girls warmed up for their first game of the tournament, a coach looked around and said, "Isn't this fun?"

It is, if you have some precocious players in the dugout, some passionate parents in the stands and a pristine park to play in. Jeff Strode got all that and more when he brought the USFA softball tournament to Gulfport's Sportsplex.

"Absolutely, because this is a fantastic complex," the tournament director said.

The Kat 5 team drove in from Texas to play for a national title in the 10-year-old age bracket. Kelly Mobley is the team's manager.

"We worked all season to come to this tournament," Mobley said.

The tournament director noted that the manager's enthusiasm was contagious.

"People want to come down here," Strode said.

That wasn't the case in 2006. The Sportsplex hosted 13 tournaments the year after Katrina. But Rusty Ramage has documentation that shows 36 other sporting events that cancelled that year.

"Basically, it was quite a challenge to bring the teams back," said the Sportsplex director.

By 2007, area businesses got back on their feet. More hotels became available for Sportsplex visitors to use. Consequently, several tournaments headed back to Gulfport. Now, Ramage believes his complex is about a year away from running very close to its pre-Katrina levels.

"I think we're 90% there. And I look at a good 2009," he said.

In 2008, up to 20 will use the facility. Kat 5 players and parents were glad to be part of this year's recovery.

"It's beautiful," Mobley said, looking around at the Sportsplex grounds. "I mean it's amazing how much they've come back since the hurricane."

According to an economic impact report put together by Sportsplex directors, 80% of the events held at the park involve local leagues and local players. The park once had a $35 million economic impact. Today, it generates about nine million dollars for Gulfport's economy.

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