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City of Demopolis looking into the business of sports

For the past two years, Demopolis has played host to two Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Tournaments, which pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash onto the streets of Demopolis and through local businesses.

On the heels of that influx, Art Evans, Cal Ripken League Administrator and Alabama Babe Ruth District 10 Commissioner, asked the Demopolis city council Thursday night to consider creating a full-time position whose sole purpose was to secure sporting events that could be held in the City of the People.

“For the past two years, in excess of $380,000 was spent in the city, just off these two tournaments,” he said. “That’s more than $17,000 in taxes paid into the city coffers.”

In July, Demopolis hosted the Cal Ripken Southeast Regional Tournament, bringing in teams from various states and the Bahamas.

Each of those teams, Evans said, needed a hotel, food, fuel and entertainment for the five-day duration of their stay.

“They spent a week here and spent their dollars in our community,” he said.

Evans and Charles Singleton, local Babe Ruth President, recently travelled to Trenton, N.J. to formally seek to bring the 10-year-old Cal Ripken World Series to the SportsPlex.

Evans said response was favorable and that the world series would bring more teams, more people and more money to Demopolis.

“That’s 10 teams,” he said. “That’s a 10-day tournament. The regionals are five days. Conservative estimates put spending at about $1 million. That’s $45,000 in taxes.”

Evans said the athletic resources available in the city could be a tourism boon for Demopolis, bringing in untapped sources of revenues.

“This is just one portion of what’s out there,” he said. “We know there are dollars out there being spent and they’re being spent elsewhere right now.”

Funding

Such a venture would need funding to get off the ground, Mayor Mike Grayson said.

Start-up costs would include a salary and benefits expense along with a travel allowance, said Don Staley, who serves as commissioner of the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission.

“You’ve got to get out and beat the bushes,” he said. “Especially when you’re just starting out. There’s travel costs associated with that.”

Grayson estimated a start-up cost of approximately $68,000, which could potentially be funded by an additional lodging tax placed on local hotels.

“We have agreed that we would support a 50 cent per bed tax to help fund this venture,” Jay Shows, owner of Best Western Two Rivers Inn and Suites, said speaking on behalf of the local hotels. “We see the value in this and we realize that everyone, especially (the hotel owners) stands to benefit from it.”

However, Shows said the hotels would only support such a tax if the city could measure the economic impact the position has created and report that back to the businesses.

“We would want to know that it’s working,” he said. “And we would want to be able to revisit (the tax) after a period of time.”

The council took no action Thursday. Grayson asked that the presentation be given serious discussion and consideration at the next council meeting.