Specht: Minden’s Recreation Center is a hidden gem

Specht

Have you ever heard of the term, “Sports tourism?” Often, it is used to discuss the economic impact of major sporting events on a region. For instance, the College World Series had an estimated $70 million impact on Omaha, Neb. That is not bad for a 12-day event.

“There’s no question that this is a record year for the economic impact and for the image of Omaha and Nebraska getting out across the country,” Jack Diesing, Chairman of College World Series of Omaha, Inc., said.

Besides record game attendance of 357,646. “This was absolutely a fantastic year.”

Diesing needs to write a letter of thanks to LSU fans.

But sports tourism is not limited to cities with “major” championships. In fact, Minden could reap the benefits of such economic development.

Fifteen years ago, our city cut the ribbon on the Minden Recreation Complex. Considered the legacy of the late Minden Mayor Bill Robertson, the complex was hailed as a “feather in our cap.”

“When it comes to economic development, there are many tools that a city can use,” Robertson told the Press-Herald in 2002. “We are very fortunate, that in a town of less than 15,000, we have something like this state-of-the-art recreation complex to show people when they come (to town).”

In the same news story, Minden Athletic Supply’s Jimmy Williams talked about the value of tournaments on the complex’s baseball and softball fields. He said tournaments would be “good for motels since players and their families will be coming from out of town and need lodging.”

As the father of two sons who played baseball throughout the early 2000s, I can attest to the value of such tournaments. We traveled to cities like Ville Platte, Gonzales. Patterson, Marshall, Texas, and more as they played the sport. We stayed in the hotels/motels, ate a restaurants, and explored retail during our “down time.”

Minden has played host to several tournaments over the years, and we have all reaped the economic benefits. However, the fields go dormant throughout the fall and winter. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are leagues throughout the South that would love to “take over” our complex for a week or so for tournaments. These are not just baseball teams either. From softball to soccer, these tournaments are popping up all over. Why not here?

Landing these tournaments is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. In fact, they can be quite taxing on resources. Many communities have a “sports commission,” an independent group of interested parties who market, bid and perform the duties necessary to land sporting events to a community. This is often an arm of a convention and tourism bureau/commission.

Minden simply does not have the capital to invest in a “new” economic development endeavor. Yet, we have this potential sport tourism engine right in our community — out along the interstate where everyone can see it.

Fifteen years ago, Mayor Robertson said, “I believe this complex will be just what Minden has been needing.” If we utilize it to its fullest potential, his words will ring true. It is time we received our full return on this investment.

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at dspecht@press-herald.com.

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