HomeNewsSportsplex enjoys biggest year yet for travel tournaments

Sportsplex enjoys biggest year yet for travel tournaments

The West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex completed its fiscal year on June 30, and the crew is celebrating its best year since opening in 2007.

“We finished FY 23 with 1,516 teams having played in a tournament here over the fall of 2022 and spring/summer of 2023,” said Sportsplex Director Jason Compton. “That’s 24 tournaments we’ve had with an average of 63 teams paying to play.

“That doesn’t include other things we do throughout the year like Jackson Parks and Recreation league ball or senior softball that we host in the spring.”

The Sportsplex hosted 935 teams the previous year, meaning they had an increase of more than 62% year over year.

“We’ve had to evolve how we do things as competition for travel teams gets bigger and bigger,” said Compton, who moved to the Sportsplex from up the road with the Jackson Generals in 2019. “We’re competing with complexes in Oxford, Miss., Cordova, South Haven, Miss., and places like that.

“And when tournaments started going to no entry fees, we resisted at first. But then we discussed it and decided are we in this for our own benefit or are we in this as a city venue for the benefit of those around us?”

What Compton meant by that is that a few hundred teams paying entry fees to play in Jackson for a couple of days is good, but if a drop in the tournament fees meant more than 1,500 teams would be coming to Jackson over the course of a year, how much would that help the neighbors of the Sportsplex.

“Look at the area between the Sportsplex and the interstate and how many restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and gas stations there are there,” Compton said. “It’s good to have 500 or 600 teams are coming to Jackson in a year, and we’re pocketing some money from it.

“But 1,500 teams coming – and they’re coming from further away – means that will be more money spent in Jackson while they’re here.”

Compton said he and tournament director Ryan Blake sat down one day and very informally tried to come up with a conservative average of how much money a travel team might spend in Jackson over the course of a weekend.

“We thought, ‘OK, what all is there to spend money on when they’re not on our premises?’” Compton said. “And I think it’s a conservative number, but we came up with an average of about $3,000 over the course of a weekend – hotels, fast food, gas, sit-down restaurants.

“I guarantee you on a weekend we’re hosting 100 teams, it’s hard to find a restaurant on Saturday night in this city that doesn’t have at least one table with a kid in a baseball or softball uniform sitting there.”

At 1,516 teams in a year, how close is that to the maximum the Sportsplex can do?

“That’s a good question because we did have one tournament with 80 teams this spring that was totally canceled,” Compton said. “If we don’t cancel that, our number is pushing 1,600.

“But there are things we can’t control like Mother Nature. I am hopeful that once Great Wolf Lodge is built, that Jackson can become a destination place because we’ll have that right next door for teams to stay at and go for fun when they’re not playing. And I’m hopeful that where we can really see an effect there is about this time of year when teams are heading to a world series somewhere. Those usually happen at a beach or somewhere like that. I’m hoping Great Wolf Lodge can be a beach for us.”

Compton said the work of the Sportsplex staff like Blake and the part-time and seasonal staff are a big reason why Jackson has become a place for travel teams to try to play.

“We’ve got teams coming from Texas and Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and all the states that border West Tennessee,” Compton said. “And I had a coach from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, come in on a Wednesday a few weeks back just wanting to see the place because some of his coaching buddies over there said he needed to bring his team here and they were coming that weekend.

“Word of mouth is a valuable tool good or bad in our business. We’ve gotten the Sportsplex to the point that coaches are talking and telling each other we’re a place to travel to. And we’re seeing the effects of it, and hopefully Jackson will continue to see those effects too.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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