Report Reviews Cedar Rapids Area Sports Venues

By Alison Sullivan, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cedar Rapids hosts a thriving sports scene, and the construction of several new complexes provides potential to increase the community's future economic growth, says a report from the National Association of Sports Commissions.

Don Schumacher, executive director of Cincinnati-based NASC, toured the area's 17 venues in July, which included arenas and the convention center, college and high school facilities, park and recreation locales and those privately owned.

The report found Cedar Rapids Sports, a department within the convention and visitors bureau, has successfully helped bring in sporting events through the area's "high quality sporting venues" as well as partnerships through surrounding schools and Perfect Game, a baseball scouting and competition organization in Cedar Rapids.

The $10,000 report evaluated the quality and potential of the area's sports venues and was paid for by the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Mary Lee Malmberg, director of sports tourism with the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the report provided a third-party perspective and gave confirmation the department is on the right track.

"What it did is identify several of the spots we were already tracking and identified some we need to take a look at and bring to the area," she said. "We're really thrilled with the results."

The report said the completion of two sports complexes — Seminole Valley Park cross-country competition facility and Prospect Meadow Ball Field — will increase the area's success in sports tourism. It added the completion of Prospect Meadows Ball Fields will be "a game changer," providing multiple fields in one location.

"I think that's true when you start to take into account what it will do locally," said Jack Roeder, project leader and former Kernels general manager.

The $9.4 million complex will feature 17 baseball and softball fields. Roeder said the project should be complete around 2016. Officials estimate the cross-country project will cost about $6,500.

The report estimated the area's facilities, including the completion of two ongoing projects, could generate $30 million annually in visitor spending.

The Prospect Meadows Ball Field, if fully developed, could be responsible for generating $25 million alone.

Cedar Rapids Sports, established in 2000 and an NASC member, has helped bring in about $80 million in new visitor spending since 2002. Cedar Rapids recently hosted regional figure skating championships and has held the Division III National Wrestling Championships several times at the US Cellular Center Arena and Convention Center, which seats 6,500.

Malmberg said officials have their sights set on hosting more national competitions, including a bid for a future Division III Baseball Championships which, if selected, likely would be held in the 5,300 Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Malmberg said bringing lots of different sporting events to the area gives community members opportunities to attend sporting events they might not have otherwise attended. It also provides steady flow of visitors to the area, from business professionals during the week to sports fans during weekend events.

"They're our exploring the area, seeing attractions and visiting restaurants and retail stores," she said. "It kind of helps even out people coming into town throughout the week."

The report noted with increased venues and visitors comes the need for more volunteers and employees to ensure events run smoothly.

The report can be seen at http://www.cedar-rapids.com/files/documents/fm/SportFacilitiesAuditFinal.pdf.
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