The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

Programs, Activities, and Safety for Youth

Four new sports complexes coming to Tri-State !

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – Four new sports complexes are in the works around the Tri-State, hoping to bring in a similar economic benefit to what Evansville has seen with its sports complexes.

The Deaconess Sports Park has been around since 2015, and the Goebel Soccer Complex has been here even longer. During that time, they had a big impact on the local economy. Now, other nearby cities are looking to do something similar.

In the time both sports parks have been open in Evansville, they have made a big difference to the area.

“The Evansville Sports Complex impact has been massive,” said Visit Evansville President & CEO Alexis Berggren.

Visit Evansville says since 2015, the two sports complexes in Evansville have generated almost $98 million in economic impact. This has come from money spent around town, as well as over 112,000 hotel room nights generated because of the park and its events.

Visit Evansville says the parks were especially impactful during the pandemic, when people were more comfortable being outside.

“Amateur sports has been a huge boon for us in terms of staying relevant throughout the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic as well,” said Berggren.

It won’t be long before Evansville isn’t alone with its sports complexes. Plans, and even early-stage construction, have started for complexes in Henderson, Madisonville, Owensboro and Warrick County.

“I’m not too worried about what you might call the youth sports arms race at this point,” said Berggren. “I do think there will come a time, probably, where the market plateaus, but I think we’re pretty far away from that at this point.”

Visit Evansville says having more destinations could elevate the entire Tri-State, making it more relevant to people outside the area.

“Really, the growth doesn’t scare me at all, we want to be a part of it,” said Berggren.

Click here to see all upcoming events at the sports complexes in Evansville.

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“NEW” Amateur Sports Added !

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We Can Save More Money In 2022 !

* ( 26 Different Amateur Sports ) *

( Teams, Officials, Tournaments, & Facilities ) *

1-800-622-7370

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

www.sadlersports.com/soda

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“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

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“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

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[[ Available In SODA Store Online !]]

** “STAY SMART ** STAY SAFE” **

Salem breaks ground on Moyer Sports Complex renovation !

Moyer Sports Complex will host its first ever pickleball championship in 2024 !

New sports complex triggers Gardendale city growth. !

GARDENDALE, Ala. — Big changes are heading to Gardendale as the city progresses in its development of a $30 million sports complex, sparking city-wide development.

The complex sits close to the northern part of Moncrief Road just before it hooks into U.S. 31. It replaces the old Bill Noble Park that was built in the 60s. The new park brings both boy’s and girl’s sports to the same site.

Mayor Stan Hogeland said it will attract families and businesses alike to give more life to the city.

“I want people to pull up to that traffic life and look across the road and say wow,” Hogeland said. “The only think that I feel like will work is if we invest in kids and recreation.”

This sports complex has made big progress as a new way to set Gardendale apart. It includes nine baseball/softball fields, eight tennis courts, 11 pickleball courts, a football field, a basketball court and a putting green with what the mayor calls an unbelievable playground.

“There’s just something going to be in that park for every member of the family, young to old,” Hogeland said.

History will not be lost on the championship wall, even keeping 7 term Mayor Bill Noble’s Name.

“He  laid the foundation for a lot of things that we have today, and I know he is personally proud to see this new park bear his name,” Hogeland said.

The project sparked more development along Fields Town Road to soon bring a Longhorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden to this city of 15,000 people.

“I don’t want us to lose our small-town feel,” Hogeland said. “We’re a bedroom community and we’re proud of it. But also, quality of life is a key component. Part of quality of life is having things for residents to enjoy right in your backyard.”

The park will have The Sports Facilities Companies, the same management as that of the Hoover Met. Hogeland said they’ve been impressed by how it has been run and hopes to have it be the ‘nicest park in Alabama’ on I-65.

The project is expected to generate millions each year and is slated to open in March 2023. Hogeland said he envisions it being used by the teams locally Monday through Friday and a way to attract other teams from across the south to compete.

**********************************************************

“NEW” Amateur Sports Added !

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We Can Save More Money In 2022 !

* ( 26 Different Amateur Sports ) *

( Teams, Officials, Tournaments, & Facilities ) *

1-800-622-7370

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

www.sadlersports.com/soda

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

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[[ Available In SODA Store Online !]]

** “STAY SMART ** STAY SAFE” **

It’s Time to Plan !

If you have fall renovations in mind, then it’s definitely time to plan. The issues are fresh in your mind, fall is the perfect time to fix the problems that dogged you all summer.

Spring and summer can be exausting for field managers. So it’s no surprise their fields that get so much use in the summer are left idle in the fall. But when you think about it, fall is the perfect time to take care of those darn problem areas that you had to work around this year. Fix the low spots, remove the lips, get some much needed water onto the turf and infields. How about taking a close look at the infield soils? Are they too dusty? Too greasy?

Do they erode in the heavy spring rains? How about tidying up the edging, or replacing that worn-out home plate or pitching rubber? Wouldn’t the kids love a properly-shaped pitching mound next year?

And, Beacon’s staff is eager to help — they love this stuff. Here is what one of Beacon’s customers said recently …

“The Friends of Hoggard Baseball recently completed Phase 1 of the renovation to its baseball facility at Hoggard High School. I want to thank everyone at Beacon Athletics for your support during the project. The customer service Beacon provided during the planning and construction of the facility has made all the difference in the world.” — John Zabriskie, Howard K. Jordan General Contractors

Take a few minutes… dream about better fields next season.

But don’t just dream it. Contact Beacon today and get started improving your fields!

**********************************************************

“NEW” Amateur Sports Added !

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We Can Save More Money In 2022 !

* ( 26 Different Amateur Sports ) *

( Teams, Officials, Tournaments, & Facilities ) *

1-800-622-7370

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

www.sadlersports.com/soda

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

[[ Available In SODA Store Online !]]

** “STAY SMART ** STAY SAFE” **

Publix Sports Park plans to expand. !

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – The plan to build a massive indoor sports complex and emergency operations center in Panama City Beach is another step closer to happening.

The buildings will be part of the current Publix Sports Park.

The Bay County Tourist Development Council approved the company that will design the $45 million project.

The indoor sports complex will have basketball courts and space for an alternate operations center.

FEMA will be paying for part of the building.

There will also be a separate building that will be used to support the main complex on the same property.

They will be located beside A. Gary Walsingham Academy in PCB.

It’s all in an effort to serve the local residents in a time of crisis.

“No local taxpayers dollars are going to fund any part of this project,” said Dan Rowe, Executive Director of the Bay County Tourism Development Council. “Last year the TDC was able to set aside tourist development tax collections which are paid by our overnight guests.”

Rowe said they will try to reach out to Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. for funding, too.

It’s money from damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

**********************************************************

“NEW” Amateur Sports Added !

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We Can Save More Money In 2022 !

* ( 26 Different Amateur Sports ) *

( Teams, Officials, Tournaments, & Facilities ) *

1-800-622-7370

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

www.sadlersports.com/soda

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

[[ Available In SODA Store Online !]]

** “STAY SMART ** STAY SAFE” **

Pickleball is exploding, and it’s getting messy !

Amateur pickleball players participate in mixed double matches during the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Baird Wealth Management Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Ohio. (Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post)
Amateur pickleball players participate in mixed double matches during the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Baird Wealth Management Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Ohio. (Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post)

MASON, Ohio — The public address announcer’s voice boomed as balls flew amid the chaotic symphony of plastic pops and thwacks. So many greats had played and won here at the Lindner Family Tennis Center outside of Cincinnati: McEnroe and Agassi, Djokovic and Federer, Nadal and Serena. But center court was suddenly the stage for something very different.

“We love tennis, and this is an incredible tennis facility,” the announcer bellowed, “but for today we are piiiiickleball!”

All eyes were on Anna Leigh Waters, 15, and Ben Johns, 23, a mixed doubles team and perhaps the brightest stars in the rapidly expanding pickleball universe, phenoms changing the way the game is played and perceived. Competing in the Baird Wealth Management Open, one of the biggest events staged by the Professional Pickleball Association, Waters and Johns are torchbearers for a young sport with a future as promising as it is unpredictable.

Quaint and complex, the game has been likened to chess on concrete and is most commonly compared to tennis, badminton and table tennis. It also has exploded into a big business with no shortage of deep-pocketed investors and eager opportunists.

Pickleball isn’t a sport at a crossroads as much as it’s a five-lane highway with everyone trying to merge while careening against the guardrails at top speed. There are three professional leagues battling for players, customers, sponsors and superiority. Communities are racing to build courts to satisfy an ever-growing appetite, and investors are finding new ways to monetize the sport. Meanwhile, the tennis community is trying to save its courts and safeguard its future.

There’s no blueprint for this kind of growth. Pickleball, with its quirky name and humble roots, was invented in 1965 and has long been popular in retirement communities. But it went mainstream only in the past few years. Aided by a pandemic boom, there were 4.8 million players last year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, though many in the industry suspect the real number is much higher, based on equipment sales and online activity. There are now 10,000 facilities nationwide registered with USA Pickleball, with three new venues opening every day on average.

“A year ago, it was like the wild west,” one industry insider said. “Now it’s like World War III.”
Old sport, new vibe . . . . . . .

Tyson McGuffin doesn’t look like a prototypical pickleball player, but maybe there’s no longer such a thing. The sport is several years removed from any stereotypes or stigmas about being strictly a 55-and-older pastime, and it’s seeing growth across virtually all demographics.

McGuffin is a tatted, mulleted, mustachioed ball of energy on the court. Then there’s J “Gizmo” Hall, who sports dreadlocks past his shoulders and competes wearing brightly colored, mismatched clothes that often feature cheeseburger patterns. And if Parris Todd looks like a fashionista on the court, it’s because she’s a fashion designer off it.

The tour features former lawyers, accountants, college professors and many, many former tennis players. Its highest ranks also include teenagers Waters, Jorja Johnson (15) and her brother JW Johnson (19). Though the sport is buoyed by millions of casual players, there are a few dozen touring pros who earn a living off prize money, endorsement deals and pickleball clinics and coaching.

Professionally and recreationally, the game is showing no signs of slowing down. Its biggest events are staged in famous tennis venues such as Lindner Family Tennis Center in Ohio, Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California and Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

“If you would’ve told me two years ago we would have been able to take those courts and turn them into pickleball courts, I would have thought you were crazy,” said Ken Herrmann, chief executive and founder of the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

There are high-level pickleball tournaments nearly every weekend, attracting both skilled professionals and weekend and after-work players. The event organizers aim for a festival-like atmosphere with a DJ blasting music, pros mixing with amateurs as they mill between courts, food trucks and vendor tents. Fans chase selfies and get their paddles autographed by the top-ranked players while waiting their turn to hit the courts in amateur tournaments.

In Cincinnati, more than 850 players signed up for the four-day event, where 42 pickleball courts were spread across the tennis center — a pickle-palooza by any measure. Tennis Channel covered each day.

The buzz and energy is still new. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there were 3.4 million players in 2019, a figure that shot up 39 percent post-lockdown.

“You’ve got to remember that people couldn’t do anything, but they could go out in their driveway or in their cul-de-sac or the street or the park,” said Leigh Waters, one of the nation’s top doubles players who teams with her daughter Anna Leigh. “And they could do it with their family. It didn’t matter what age they were, what athletic ability they were.”

With a smaller court and a shorter net than tennis, the game can be more intimate and doesn’t necessarily require as much mobility. The plastic ball has holes like a Wiffle ball, giving it pop off the paddle and making the speed and pace manageable. Children play alongside grandparents. Men team up with women. Among pros and amateurs alike, the doubles game is more popular and highly regarded than singles.

“It’s all about equality,” says Anne Worcester, a strategic adviser for Major League Pickleball. “All ages can play — all genders, all geographies, indoors or outdoors. It’s fun, it’s social, it’s easy to pick up regardless of athletic ability. It’s affordable and inexpensive. Pickleball meets every consumer need.”

According to SFIA’s most recent numbers, the largest age demographic is still 65-plus (849,000 players last year), though younger players aren’t far behind (787,000 ages 25 to 34; 600,000 in 18 to 24; and 610,000 in 35 to 44). Players tend to be White, college-educated and earn at least $100,000 annually.

The major hotbeds are California and Florida, but nearly the entire country has felt the demand. Private businesses have been sprouting up everywhere, such as the Pickle Shack in Columbus, Ohio, which is open to players 24 hours a day; the Missouri Pickleball Club outside of St. Louis, which features 18 indoor courts spread across 51,000 square feet; and several places like Chicken N Pickle, a chain that aims to marry casual pickleball with casual dining.

Parks and recreation departments have been similarly scrambling to accommodate pickleball’s popularity.

According to the National Recreation and Park Association, nearly 80 percent of departments serving communities of at least 250,000 people have outdoor tennis courts; half now also feature pickleball courts. Change is harder on the public side, where local officials have to sort out limited resources, often re-purposing tennis courts or converting soccer fields. They also must weigh the needs of their tennis players, who don’t want to lose courts or contend with pickleball lines. (A single regulation tennis court can accommodate four pickleball courts.)

In Wichita, a pickleball pro is now on the city payroll to help oversee the sport and run clinics and tournaments, and local officials have allocated $3 million to build its “Pickleplex,” a 20-court public facility scheduled to open next year.

“I knew it was coming, but it’s hard to move fast enough,” said Troy Houtman, Wichita’s director of parks and recreation. “People are just so hungry for it.”

A tour tug-of-war , , , , , , , , ,

Herrmann saw the potential early. With a background in tennis as a player, coach and club operator, he launched the APP in 2019, growing it from three annual events in 2020 to 32 this year, featuring $2 million in prize money.

The PPA’s Pardoe was early in the space, too. After his family, which runs a real estate development company in Utah, began casually playing together, they dreamed up something similar to the AVP beach volleyball tour. The PPA launched in 2018 and this year is staging 20 events with $3 million in prize money.

And a hedge-fund manager named Steven Kuhn founded Major League Pickleball in 2021, introducing a rating system and offering a team format that set it apart from the two existing tours. Backed by investors including Drew Brees, James Blake and Gary Vaynerchuk, the league is hosting three events this year, featuring many of the players from the tours.

All three entities are vying to be the market leader. For now, they seem to coexist, but the PPA ruffled feathers when it signed exclusive contracts with some of the sport’s top players. The tour was purchased this year by Tom Dundon, the billionaire owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who quadrupled the staff and moved the operation from Salt Lake City to Dallas. It has already seen improved coverage on Tennis Channel and even a weekend slot on CBS for a recent tournament.

“The most amount of money we bring in from our different buckets, the number one would be sponsorship,” the PPA’s Pardoe said. “When I came into the sport, we did not have $1 in sponsorship money, not one sponsor behind us. When we came in, it was all family money. It’s pretty surreal.”

As a whole, the industry has graduated from mom-and-pop and pickleball-specific companies to broader corporate partners. Signage around Lindner Family Tennis Center included Hertz, DraftKings, Baird and Chase.

“I have the best job in the world, honestly, because it’s true: Everyone wants to be in pickleball,” said Josh Freedman, an agent to some of the game’s top players. “I think we’re very, very early and the appetite is not even close to being fulfilled yet.”

But it’s not clear whether the sport, with many more amateur players than tour followers, will support three top-level organizations. They all have different credentials: The APP is sanctioned by USA Pickleball, the national governing body; the PPA has Dundon and many of the top players locked up; and Major League Pickleball, which is aligned with APP, features a team format that aims to be more like the Davis Cup or World Team Tennis.

“Let’s learn from tennis’s successes and learn from tennis’s mistakes,” said Worcester, the MLP adviser who previously served as chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association and spent decades in the tennis industry. “Pickleball already has too many acronyms, so I’d like to think that pickleball will get its act together and streamline.”

Worcester said that means consistent rules and a unified ranking system — and not stirring confusion for the pickleball players and viewers.

“There’s been space for everybody,” the PPA’s Pardoe said, “and I think the other organizations are doing a great job right now. I think it’s been nothing but helpful for everybody.”

‘Competition for tennis’ . . . . . . . .

As most tennis aficionados would be quick to note, pickleball is not tennis. But the sports are certainly related, and their fortunes can’t be easily untangled.

On the court, the scoring is different; the athleticism, mobility and endurance are much different. Even the seriousness, intensity and collegiality can feel different.

Pickleball can feature long rallies with players gathered closer to the net, exchanging short-distance dinks — until a switch is flipped and the players launch into a rapid-fire exchange of volleys. At the highest levels, it’s a game of both finesse and power. There are few aces — only underhand serves — and shot placement is at a premium.

“In tennis, if you physically don’t meet the high-level physical standards, it’s very hard to compete,” said 32-year-old Jessie Irvine, who was a high-ranked junior tennis player and is now one of the top pickleball players in the country. “This is a more neutralizing sport, more based on skill than actual physicality the way tennis is.”

Like Irvine, many pickleballers at all levels, old and young, come from tennis backgrounds, and pickleball is increasingly co-opting tennis resources, its courts and its players.

“Pickleball, to me, is a competition for tennis,” said Ray Benton, chief executive of Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. “What the pickleball people have done is absolutely spectacular. They found a way to get people to have fun on a racket court. In my judgment, tennis is the better sport, and we need to do a better job of promoting it.”

JTCC is a highly regarded training ground for young players — Frances Tiafoe among them — and next month it will host a PPA event at its College Park campus for the first time.

“For people in the tennis establishment to demean pickleball is missing the point,” he said. “We have plenty of room for a vibrant tennis industry and a vibrant pickleball industry. But to pretend it isn’t competition and demean it, that’s like people who drove horse and buggies demeaning the automobile. It’s not a fad, and it’s not going away. They’re two wonderful sports, and we need to maximize both of them.”

Nearly 1 in 3 pickleball players also participated in tennis at least once in the past year, according to SFIA. Tennis also experienced a covid boom, and more than 22 million Americans played the sport last year — 4.7 times more than pickleball and up 28 percent from two years earlier, according to SFIA data.

The popular comparison offered by pickleballers is to look back at ski resorts three or so decades ago, when snowboarding first took hold and skiers had to reluctantly share the slopes.

“And, you know, maybe they didn’t like the snowboarders at first, but now here we all are,” Pardoe said. “They both coexist and they all sell a ton of equipment and both are doing great.”

Global ambitions . . . . . . . .

Irina Tereschenko, 39, is a Russian-born player who made the leap from tennis six years ago and has since traveled across Europe and Asia introducing people to pickleball. They might not have access to courts and equipment yet, but Tereschenko said they’re easily hooked.

“I think pickleball is entering its second or third stage of mass adoption,” she said, “and that’s super exciting. I think it’s going to explode globally.”

If pickleball continues to grow at its current rate, there will be more than 9 million Americans swinging a paddle in 2025. Industry insiders say the sport is continuing to get younger. It’s being taught in gym classes. There are intramural clubs in high schools and on college campuses, though it hasn’t yet caught on as a sanctioned sport.

“Getting more youth programs, getting it into schools, would be the next kind of big step,” said Irvine, the pickleball pro who also coaches high school tennis. “And then I think it has the potential to be a collegiate sport and, ultimately, it needs to be in the Olympics. That would skyrocket everything.”

But it’s still largely an American game, and it would need more international players to attract serious Olympic interest. Organizers with the 2024 Paris Games and the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics have largely settled on their sport offerings, leaving the Brisbane Games in 2032 as the next possibility.

Waters and Johns could still be in their prime by then. They’re among the youngest players on tour but also considered among the best to play the sport. Outside Cincinnati, Waters won the women’s singles title and also mixed doubles, while Johns won mixed doubles alongside Waters and men’s doubles with his brother Collin. Johns won approximately $8,500 for his efforts, while Waters pocketed $7,500. Both also earned appearance fees, which can range from $1,000 to $5,000 for the PPA’s top players.

Waters, who turned pro at 12, is no longer getting asked by friends why she gave up soccer and why she’s on the road so much. She has been featured on “SportsCenter” and has her own logo, a signature paddle and a sponsorship deal with Fila. She’s growing right along with the sport.

“I used to hear, like, ‘Ha ha, that’s just an old-person sport,’ ” she said with a laugh. “But now they see me on TV and stuff — or they see that I’m playing with celebrities that they know. And I’m like: ‘I told you. Pickleball is a legit thing.’ ”

**********************************************************

“NEW” Amateur Sports Added !

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We Can Save More Money In 2022 !

* ( 26 Different Amateur Sports ) *

( Teams, Officials, Tournaments, & Facilities ) *

1-800-622-7370

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

www.sadlersports.com/soda

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

www.sportsplexoperators.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Proudly Serving The USA/Canada

Since 1981”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

[[ Available In SODA Store Online !]]

** “STAY SMART ** STAY SAFE” **

Sportsplex Dugout Design !

New Sportsplex Coming City of Greenwood !

Construction on Greenwood’s newest amenity is progressing, with crews moving dirt before laying the foundation of the city’s latest project.

A 40-acre plot of land northwest of the Worthsville Road and Interstate 65 interchange will soon be the site of an expansive sports park that will include eight baseball/softball diamonds and a multi-use playing field. It will also include the city’s second splash pad, and add to Greenwood’s inventory of inclusive playground equipment, according to designs for the project.

The park will provide a place for traveling sports teams and their families, officials said.

Right now though, the site is just like other new construction sites — flat and empty.

“With any new construction, especially this scale, it’s a raw site,” said Rob Taggart, parks and recreation executive director. “It had no-to-limited utilities with it.”

Infrastructure and utility work underway

Construction crews are currently working to put in place infrastructure and utilities, including sanitation, stormwater, power and water lines, he said.

The park is expected to cost around $10 million, but the majority of the funds come from a $9 million tax increment financing, or TIF, bond approved by the city council in May. The bond will pull revenues received from the Worthsville Road TIF district, which officials have said is generating revenue quicker than expected.

City officials say the remaining $1 million will be paid with park impact fees and operating funds. Park impact fees are collected from each new home built in the city to create and maintain park facilities.

The park’s design remains on track with what officials have previously said it would include, including the eight baseball/softball diamonds. The diamonds are designed to be multi-use and will use a hybrid approach for the turf. Artificial turf will be used for the infield and natural grass will be used in the outfield, Taggart said.

There also is the community park aspect as well.

“They’ll be inclusive play equipment, splash pad (and) also a multi-use field north of that,” he said. “Then the whole side will be networked with multi-use trails.”

There’s currently not a publicly available timeline for construction due to the nature of the construction environment right now with supply chain and labor issues. The city is dealing with these on a day-to-day basis, and will likely not have a clear vision of the construction timeline any sooner than early next year, Taggart said.

“This is just a great opportunity for us to have that recreational amenity in that southeast quadrant of the city,” he said. “… Also with the additional ball diamonds, we’ll be able to offer more of a diverse range of programs, and then also be bringing in tournaments as well.”

Mayor Mark Myers is very excited about the project and what it will offer to the community. Among the things it offers is a cricket field, something the city has never had before.

“It has a lot to offer, really, for everything,” he said.

When people come to communities these days, they are seeking communities that have amenities that improve their quality of life. They are seeking inclusive playgrounds, parks and splash pads, along with opportunities like playing in tournaments, Taggart said.

“This is ticking the box on making sure that Greenwood is staying relevant and providing top quality of life amenities,” he said.

Quality of life improvements

The park builds quality-of-life amenities for everybody, but also provides new opportunities for recreation that will be new to the city. The multi-use field can be used for a variety of sports, including cricket. That’s something that has been lacking for the city’s growing Sikh population, Myers said.

The sports park will also bring a soccer field, something the city hasn’t had in a while, for both children and adults to use, he said.

“It’s another amenity to help get people out and help encourage that healthy, walkable lifestyle,” Myers said.

Taggart said that under the Myers’ administration, the city has been able to produce several quality-of-life projects, including the re-imagined Old City Park, the redevelopment of the Surina Park Amphitheater and the Greenwood Fieldhouse. Taggart foresees the quality of work from these projects being present with the sports park as well.

“I think that’s what the residents can expect,” he said.

Along with the sports park, he cites the upcoming completion of the walking trail along Madison Avenue and Main Street in Old Town as part of the idea.

“People first said (the trail) was a really bad mistake and said people wouldn’t use them. But they’re used more and more,” Myers said.

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Team Up!

Navigating Staffing Challenges

By Dave Ramont

Where have all the workers gone? When you drive through town or visit the store, it sure seems like there are still the same amount of people around. And yet, many businesses are dealing with serious staffing challenges, whether it be seasonal, part-time or full-time help. Of course, the lion’s share of these employee shortages have taken place since the pandemic hit, in what many have referred to as The Great Resignation. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce article published this past spring reported that in 2021, more than 47 million workers quit their jobs, many of whom were “in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation and a strong company culture.”

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PHOTO COURTESY OF STOCK.ADOBE.COM
 

The recreation, sports and fitness sectors are certainly experiencing their own staffing challenges. IAAPA is the global association for the attractions industry, and Michael Shelton is vice president and executive director at IAAPA North America. He explained that while they saw staffing concerns become a larger issue during the pandemic, they actually saw the beginning of those concerns in 2019. “As we all know, employees around the world discovered that priorities shifted, and some have chosen to find work in other fields. Others, however, weren’t able to go back to regular work for a variety of reasons, including possible health concerns, lack of childcare options and more.”

Shelton said their members are experiencing a combination of staffing concerns. “Our seasonal staffing struggles not only stemmed from regular would-be employees choosing not to go back to work at places like attractions and destinations, but also ongoing issues with federal work visas.” He described how IAAPA actively works to mitigate ongoing workforce concerns, including advocating for expanding the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program (SWT) and H-2B visas. J-1 provides foreign students with an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. during their summer vacation from college. “Currently, the SWT program is capped at 109,000 participants, but we’ve advocated to expand that. Even with the lingering impacts of COVID on the program, participation rates are up 65% when compared to 2020.”

“Our seasonal staffing struggles not only stemmed from regular would-be employees choosing not to go back to work at places like attractions and destinations, but also ongoing issues with federal work visas.”

— Michael Shelton, Vice President, IAAPA North America

Since the beginning of the pandemic, IAAPA increased their virtual education programs to ensure that they were still supporting and reaching members, according to Shelton. “We focused on a combination of professional development options, but also offered courses in employee retention and HR matters.” He shared some examples of webinar titles including “How to Increase Output for Increased Wages”; “Key Strategies for Opening a Facility That Thrives”; and “Waterparks: How to Hire and Keep Your Lifeguards This Season.” “Later this year, we’ll offer education sessions on talent acquisition during today’s hiring struggles and one called ‘The How you Doin’ Panel: Taking Care of Ourselves, Our Teams, and Overcoming Staffing Challenges.'”

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PHOTO COURTESY OF STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Earlier this year, IAAPA oversaw a gathering titled “Staffing Hot Topics,” led by amusement park executives. One operator spoke about a program their park initiated called “10-Day Work and Play,” aimed at finding people to work at the park during the 10 most difficult days of the year, targeting those available on weekdays, like the elderly. In addition to normal wages, they were offered four season passes. Last year the program was a success, even attracting a retired surgeon who’d always dreamed of working at an amusement park. Some other strategies park managers shared included targeting parents and convincing them to get their kids to apply; leaving business cards with contact information at restaurants or businesses if someone had provided exceptional service; getting current employees to help recruit new workers by offering them cash bonuses for referrals; giving out awards to employees at season’s end to entice them to return; and offering training at off hours when more potential employees could attend.

Parks & Rec

Municipalities and parks departments certainly haven’t been immune to staffing challenges, often resulting in reduction of hours or services. Amanda Hutcheson is the director of Parks and Recreation in Broadview Heights, Ohio, and she said that while the struggles continue, it has improved over a year ago. “We did a big push on social media to get people in for interviews.”

And while they’ve had to reduce hours in their natatorium, they have found some successful ways to entice young people to become-or stay-lifeguards. “Shorter shifts for the teenage guards and the ability to be home by 8:30 on school days has helped retain more guards and keep parents happy. We also let the guards have a voice in what makes them happy and keeps them there. Choosing the lifeguard attire and food at in-service was a big request. Plus we’ve offered the lifeguard course and Water Safety Instructor course for free and pay for their vests if they pass.”

Any other ways to attract and retain park employees? “Wages, wages, wages,” said Hutcheson. “In the fall of 2021 we were given the go-ahead to increase the pay for guards and water safety instructors, as well as custodial and resident service attendants. The mayor, city council and HR fully supported the raise in pay rates to get quality staff and have rates that are matching or above surrounding communities. We also now offer any part-time staff member that has worked for us for six months and a minimum of 16 hours a week four paid holidays, PTO time and a free rec membership.”

Team Up  !

Navigating Staffing Challenges