Posted Date: 02/01/2024
Part Three: The Bidding Process
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 part three of the three-part story. Visit harrisonar.gov to read the story in its entirety.
Through the partnership of Parks and Recreation and Explore Harrison, $4.1 million in tourism dollars are expected to be spent in Harrison due to sporting events in 2024. Some of these events are awarded through the bidding process with the Arkansas Athletic Association (AAA).
How does the bidding process work?
The bidding for state, district, and regional tournaments actually begins in November. Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Eddington calls schools and asks them to partner with the city to bid to host tournaments.
“The AAA likes to move the tournaments around, so if one of our area schools hosted a basketball tournament last year, I might suggest they host baseball, softball, or volleyball this year,” Eddington said. The schools sponsor the bids for their regions and divisions.
This year, Harrison Parks and Rec, along with Explore Harrison, were able to partner with Omaha School District for the 1A State Basketball tournament, Bergman School District for the 3A State Soccer tournament, and Harrison School District for the 5A State Baseball and Softball Tournament. Additionally, they partnered with Bergman, Omaha, and Valley Springs for regional and district tournaments. “A ton of our success is all because of their willingness to partner with us, and it is important to give them a shout-out for doing so,” Bell said.
Sometimes, the schools or Matt or Chuck make a sales pitch in Little Rock to the AAA. The AAA directors (superintendents of schools), then vote on who receives the bids.
“When a school bids on a tournament, the maximum they can offer AAA is 95% of the gate fees. That money goes back to the AAA. We encourage our partner schools to bid the maximum. That looks good to AAA, and then we have the advantage. We also put up the referees in hotels. A lot of towns don’t do that,” Eddington said. “But our schools can offer that because of the partnership between Parks and Explore Harrison.”
“That comes from the City Advertising Tourist Promotion Commission (CATPC) and Explore Harrison because our funding comes from the tax revenue,” Bell said. “That’s where our relationship with Parks and Rec works so well. The tax revenue comes to us, and we, in turn, hand it to Parks and Recreation for tournament expenses,” Bell explained.
Eddington said, “Matt and the CVB do a good job. If I have to do something special to get these tournaments to come here, I sit down with him and let him know how much it will cost and how many teams will be coming. We ensure the event will be worth it for our community; if not, we pass on it.”
“For example, the second week of March, we will have 64 high school teams in town for a tournament. That’s 20 students per team staying here that Wednesday night; easily 1,200 kids, with the possibility of four spectators per kid, all sleeping and eating in or near Harrison,” Bell said.
The organization prints a yearly tournament schedule to share with restaurants and hotels to help prepare them for additional out-of-town guests.
“We want them to staff and plan correctly because we don’t want them running out of food or struggling to serve everyone,” Eddington said.
Bell admitted, “That has happened in the past. Advance notice really helps them.”
“We are in direct competition with the hotels in Branson. But for state tournaments, we had to negotiate with hotels before we went to AAA with our bids. Our bid includes 95% of gate, 10 hotel rooms for officials and staff, and discounted room rates for teams. That’s all part of the package, coupled with our top-notch facilities. We have a reputation in Little Rock,” Bell said. “Giving teams a great experience with hotels and restaurants is a big key to them returning the next year.”
So, how many 2024 bids did you win this year?
“We did well,” Bell grinned. “We got a state tournament for every sport we bid on this year.”
“We received the bids for four state tournaments in basketball, soccer, baseball, and softball,” Eddington elaborated. “In regionals, we received baseball and softball for 1A and 3A. We also will host three district tournaments for 1A, 2A, and 3A in baseball and softball. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer.”
“Tournament organizers appreciate that we have the facilities to host them all at one location, so only one administrator has to be on one site and not spread out in different locations. We have the hotels and restaurants in town, so they are nearby as well,” Eddington said.
“We appreciate the support of our community when we host these influxes of guests. Sure, it affects traffic, restaurant seating, and hotel space availability. But $4.1 million dollars is game-changing for our local businesses; teams and their families live here for several days at a time,” Bell said.
Friendly volunteers are often needed at these events. If individuals or businesses are interested in helping, please call Chuck Eddington at 870-741-2149 or Matt Bell at 870-741-1789.