Owensboro is getting another chance to increase tourism and revenue by hosting a new series of high school athletic tournaments beginning in January. There are also some initially proposed plans for an indoor athletic facility, though it is only a recommendation at this point.
The city will be the inaugural host of a new set of tournaments called the Kentucky 2A Championships for basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and softball. Owensboro won its placed bid of $1,000 in April to host the championships.
As part of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s goal to bring more people to the city of Owensboro, landing a three-year contract to host the 2A Championships is considered a highlight for the forthcoming fiscal year.
The 2A Championships were created for mid-sized high schools to have a better chance of winning state championships. Those sports only have one official KHSAA state champion since schools are not classified by size as they are in football, cross country and track and field.
The basketball state tournament will bring 16 basketball teams to play at the Sportscenter from Jan. 18-20. Owensboro will host eight boys’ teams and eight girls’ teams — winners and runners-up — from four different districts across the state.
Jared Bratcher, sports director of the CVB, said sporting events are a great strategy for implementing revenue for the city and Owensboro’s tourism industry.
Bratcher said Owensboro has a great reputation, and past and current visitors to sporting contests have bragged on the city and its hotels for their hospitality in hosting large-scale athletic events.
The CVB is currently planning more ways to bring in revenue and increase hotel occupancies for the growing city. Initiative focuses include bringing more people to the Owensboro Convention Center, increasing hotel occupancy during sporting events, developing a thorough CVB marketing plan and, overall, increasing demand to the city of Owensboro by uncovering opportunities developed from the recent sports study.
Bratcher spent a portion of the Tuesday CVB meeting discussing Owensboro’s need for an indoor athletic facility, a recommendation outlined in the sports study. After spending a lot of time researching and traveling to other cities to study the most cost-effective method in bringing large-scale volleyball and basketball tournaments to the area, Bratcher proposed the idea of implementing indoor courts at the Owensboro Convention Center.
According to Bratcher, the convention center has the space for up to nine volleyball courts and three basketball courts. Bratcher’s idea is to purchase indoor, athletic flooring tiles that will be placed over a layer of shock-resistant felt and prevent the tiles from creaking.
The CVB would purchase the Sport Court tiles from Aztec Flooring in Louisville. Costs for the entire project are predicted to fall around $200,000 — a far cry from the $4 million to $8 million Bratcher says a brand-new indoor facility would cost to build.
“They’re going to send us different formats and prices of costs and layouts,” Bratcher said.
He said logos for the floor could either be pre-made for the courts or separate tiles could be designed per request.
The Sport Court tiles could be removed for other events to take place on the first floor of the convention center, and Bratcher said the floor could fit inside an 18-wheeler-sized storage unit when not in use. The flooring would come with a 15-year warranty.
Owensboro Convention Center General Manager, Laura Alexander said the flooring will be able to transform the surface for sporting events but can be pulled right back up in order to set up for exhibits.
“The Sport Court is something that can be put down and taken up and easily removed,” Alexander said. “It gives a lot of flexibility of what we can do in that space. It will definitely change the dynamic of the types of sports we can host here in Owensboro.”
Overall, Bratcher feels prime time use for the courts would be October through March, during volleyball and basketball seasons. Tournaments held in cities like Louisville and Lexington often bring in large numbers of teams, family members and fans. The events support those cities’ tourism industries, creating revenue as well.
“Once you get over 40 teams, you really start seeing an impact,” Bratcher said.
He said Owensboro isn’t competing with bigger cities, but has the potential to develop in various ways that would boost economic development.
“If you go to trade shows, Owensboro has as good of a reputation as anywhere in the country for being a host for sporting events,” Bratcher said. “People get it here — the hotels get it. People aren’t treated as tourists; they’re treated pretty good here.”