Sports could be boon for economy

Published 3:29 pm Friday, May 6, 2011

Difficult economic times call for a lot of things on the part of civic leaders. Perhaps more than anything, such financial crunches call for creative thinking.

Financial woes lead us to two things – whether as individuals, businesses or municipalities. They help us identify our minimum operating expenditures, essentially showing what we can live without. But they also help us to find new ways to generate revenue.

The City of Demopolis has shown some initiative in this dim economic period by deciding to move forward with the proposed port that promises to bring jobs to the town. Now, it is time for the city to take a look at the other aspect of Mike Grayson’s vision for the future.

Email newsletter signup

In a recent community forum, Grayson made reference to his desire to see the creation of a sports and tourism director position for the city. The individual who took over the position would be responsible for optimizing the revenue-generating potential for many of Demopolis’ top resources, such as the SportsPlex. He or she would actively pursue baseball and softball tournaments, golf events, fishing tournaments and the like in an effort to bring outside dollars into the town through the usage of hotels and local restaurants.

Among other duties, the individual would be responsible for recruiting other ventures such as conferences and large-scale meetings.

Then there is the part about turning the Civic Center, a venue with a capacity of only about 300 people, into a full-fledged convention center.

The question becomes how to fund such an office. Suggestions will be made. But the blueprint that has been bandied about since November is one adopted by the City of Tuscaloosa at a recent council meeting.

Druid City councilmen opted to impose a one percent sales tax on hotels in order to fund such an office. The move prevents the city from paying any extra dollars for the position while allowing it to reap the benefits. Essentially, it allows the office to pay for itself as tourists and tournament participants recruited to the city by the S&T director will effectively be providing the financial backing for the very office that produced their presence in the city. It is a no-lose situation for the city.

If the council chooses to pursue such a venture, a decision that would almost certainly be one of the greatest accomplishments of its tenure, imposing a similar tax would be advantageous to the endeavor. Such a tax is not going to drive visitors away or cause them not to stay in Demopolis as nearby cities do not provide competitive markets for dining and lodging. Those who need to come to the city will come. Those who must stay will stay. So the argument that such a tax would deter tourism, effectively proving counterproductive to the measure’s end, does not hold water.

If Grayson does propose the sports and tourism director position as he seems to want to do, it will show a measure of ingenuity and creativity necessary to bunk current economic trends and breathe some life back into a city that is in need of its second wind.

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of The Demopolis Times.