Once a jewel that brought youth baseball teams to New Albany from throughout the Southeast, the Sportsplex today is suffering from declining revenue.
The problem as we see it is twofold: a promoter who once steered teams and tournaments to New Albany has moved on and the complex along U.S. 78 faces fierce competition from newer and more upscale facilities.
At stake is a lot of money, both for the city and for the area’s hospitality industry. Two years ago the Sportsplex brought in more than $100,000 to city coffers from gate receipts and concession revenue. Last year, bad weather was blamed for a decline to about $80,000.
This year is different. So far two tournaments have been scheduled and canceled. Depending on who you talk to, the blame lies with bad weather or a lack of interest from teams. We suspect both.
In addition to impacting the city directly, the decline affects sales and tourism taxes as well as the hospitality industry. Hotels usually full on spring and summer weekends are not, and some restaurants are seeing significant declines in weekend patronage.
Today tournaments and teams are being funneled to fancier new digs, mostly in Oxford.
Mayor Tim Kent acknowledges the problems. The Sportsplex, a marvel when it opened in 1993, needs significant upgrades. The facility does not have an upscale look; concession stands and restrooms were not designed to handle the crowds the facility has attracted.
Expectations change and we must change with them. We don’t have a solution to the Sportsplex baseball problem, but we don’t think it is being taken seriously enough.
We have been blindsided by competition, and we need a comprehensive plan to meet that competition.