COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. It's a busy weekend for many, between observing the holiday dedicated to those who have died while serving our country, many will also be engaging in sports and outdoor activities.
The City of College Station kicked off summer this weekend as they hosted their first summer sports event. With a jam-packed summer up ahead, they aren't slowing down anytime soon. So what exactly is it that drives tournament directors and fans to College Station? We found out.
If you ask the City's Athletics and Tourism Manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, he will tell you College Station is one of the best-kept secrets for sports tourism and for a number of reasons.
"We would like to believe it's our radical hospitality. It's what we are kind of known for and the ability to provide for our customers and participants. Our location in Texas is a great benefit as well," Gene Ballew, Athletics and Tourism Manager for College Station Parks and Recreation said.
A central location isn't the only thing... it's the facilities too. Just chop it up with Billy Hart, the tournament director for this weekend's competition. Hart jumps on every opportunity to have participants compete here (Veterans Park and Athletics Complex).
"Veterans Park in College Station is always been amazing when it comes to having events. The facilities are top-notch. You can look at the facilities themselves, the fields are in immaculate shape. We also appreciate the way the City helps everyone that comes to town... between hotels and restaurants," Hart, Executive Vice President of the South Texas Youth Soccer Association said.
With welcoming hospitality and top-notch facilities, the economic impact is set to really bring the heat.
"The summer as a whole... we are probably looking at 5-6 million dollars in the economic impact just in the next 2-3 months," Ballew added.
Ballew says teams this weekend traveled from near and far, all over The Lonestar State, some say College Station is a place they already look forward to returning to.
"It's been great. We are really exploring today because of 8 A.M. game we are going to get out and about and have lunch and dinner and have some good fellowship time," Cedric Claiborne, a parent of a participant in the soccer tournament said. "Especially the team will be going to the Aggieland Tournament too in August, so we will be back enjoying these great facilities," he added.
For Hart, facilities are at the forefront when deciding where to take his tournaments, but also considers what fans and participants could engage in outside the playing field.
"We obviously don't want to bring people and not be able to satisfy what they are needing to do. Parents have gone to the movie theaters, they have gone to restaurants and hung out. They find things to do," Hart added.
"We are looking forward to more sunshine and more days like today," Ballew shared.
Ballew says as far as the number of events go, they are essentially at capacity for the summer, which he says is a great problem to have.
According to the City's website, The Parks & Recreation Department will host 12 sports events from May 29-Aug. 29. The diverse array of events includes youth soccer, girls’ fast-pitch softball, 7-on-7 football, and senior softball.
Ballew estimates from this summer's events nearly 30,000 visitors will be in town filling shops and hotels, which he says, is a victory for everyone.
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