'Unique' Sports Park Paying Off

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EVANSVILLE -

The executive director of the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau says the organization and region are already reaping the benefits of an arrangement unlike any other in the state. Bob Warren says, since the $16.5 million Deaconess Sports Park opened in May, weekend hotel occupancy rates have reached 90 percent. The park is expected to draw up to 200,000 new visitors each year and have an annual economic impact of between $13 million and $16 million. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Warren says he has not come across another CVB that owns a facility like this in his nearly 30 years in the tourism industry.

As communities continue to compete for local and out-of-town dollars, many just within the last year turned to sports initiatives. One example is Grand Park in Westfield, which city officials say competitions this year will result in more than 500,000 unique park visits this year. Greenwood was moving along with a $22 million sports village and "athlete-minded hotel" before it was put on hold last year after the developer cut ties with funding partners. Construction began around a year ago on a more than $4 million domed athletic facility, The Sparta Sports Dome, in Crown Point. In February, a new sports commission in Fort Wayne called Sport Wayne Inc. was launched with the goal of attracting more sporting events to the community and supporting local programs.

Warren also addressed the planned $61 million downtown Evansville convention hotel. He says he expects final plans to come together by the end of next month. Warren and the rest of his team have been pitching the hotel to potential clients for a year and a half and he says "it's time for it to happen." The scale of the current project has been reduced since previous plans fell through when some private investment money was taken off the table. Warren expects the hotel construction to begin in September.

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