Posted Date: 01/30/2024
Sports Tourism to bring $4.1 m
Matt Bell (executive director of Explore Harrison) and Chuck Eddington (Parks and Recreation director) sat down and discussed the $4.1 million dollars expected to pour into the community this year through tournaments at Harrison facilities. This is the first part of the three-part story. Visit harrisonar.gov to read the story in its entirety.
Explore Harrison's Executive Director Matt Bell and Harrison Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Eddington are powerhouses that bring enormous economic impact to the Harrison area.
The men went to North Little Rock to attend the Arkansas Activities Association’s bid process to bring sporting tournaments to the area during 2024.
Mayor Jerry Jackson said, “The city is very grateful to the hard work of Matt Bell and Chuck Eddington and their staff. Their efforts to use the Sports Complex to its potential will bring millions of tax revenue into the area in 2024. This will benefit our restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that reap from those dollar turnovers into the community.”
It was a successful trip. The pair estimate that the amount of money coming into the community from this year’s successful bids will be at least $4.1 million.
Bell said quickly, “Now those are our own direct numbers, not numbers from a fancy economist. We haven’t added any multipliers. We know how many teams and players are coming, which typically averages to 20 per team. Then, we figure two to four additional visitors per athlete, depending on the age category. We use the flat hotel rate per night during their stay and two meals a day at $10 per meal.”
“We know additional money will be spent in the community for general daily expenses like gasoline and supplies, so we also have a category for that,” Bell said. “So these are very conservative numbers. They are not multiplied or inflated.”
“Other individuals can take our basic numbers and report how many times those numbers will turn over. But our main objective has always been to know how our hotels and restaurants are benefitting,” Bell said.
“I think for these state and regional tournaments, it’s important to give credit to the schools. We don’t get the opportunity for that bid without their name and representation,” Bell said.
Eddington added, “We have a great relationship with the schools in Boone, Newton, and Marion counties. That’s the key. We develop positive relationships, and the school is more than excited to put their name on a tournament bid as the host because it saves the school travel expenses, and they know we will run the tournament for them and take care of everything.”
“That is how Chuck and I work together to facilitate these tournaments. The schools know if we put our name on it, we will take care of it.”
Bell laughed and added, “By ‘we,’ I mean Chuck and his team.”
Chuck acknowledged that someone from Matt’s team is always there to assist. Bell added, “But Chuck runs the show.”
“There is also one unique partnership in 2024 – the 1-A State Basketball-- because we incorporated North Arkansas College to host it at Pioneer Pavilion.” Bell continued.
“Parks and Rec is built on partnerships with schools, our college, and local businesses. We are so blessed and fortunate to have individuals and businesses in the community who support and volunteer. This community always gives back to partners. Anytime we ask for help, they are willing,” Eddington said.
“The 4.1 million dollar injection into our economy for this year is a huge chunk of money,” Bell said.
“And part of that is because our events continue to grow yearly. We are now able to host major events,” Eddington
“When we were able to complete Phase One of the bond issue and add turf to the Sports Complex, we attracted four major additional events,” Eddington said. “That was 150 teams a week.”
“And retain them,” Bell added. “We could also host games and events that were moved from other facilities in bad weather.” (Games played on turf fields can be continued even in the rain.)
“Because of the taxpayers’ investment, we are able to host six different high schools and our college to play on our fields,” Eddington said. “Because we have turf, that keeps them from having a rain-out game.”
Taxpayers approved a special tax in the spring 2021 to add turf to the fields. Eddington said Phase Two of that improvement project will be completed by February, adding covered bleachers.
“The covered bleachers will be significantly safer and shadier for the fans watching the games,” Eddington said.
Eddington said that Explore Harrison jumped in quickly to assist with funds when they realized some power poles would have to be replaced in order to complete the covered bleachers project.
“The CATPC (City Advertising, Tourism, and Promotion Commission, the governing commission of Explore Harrison) gave an extra $90,000 for those four light poles to be removed and replaced. There was no hesitation on our part because our bread and butter continue to be sports events. As Chuck says, ‘Sports Tourism is the number one tourism market for the city of Harrison.’” Bell said.
Both men are very excited about Creekside opening soon.
“We’ve already got events booked at Creekside, with more in the wings,” Eddington said.