Tourism agency looking to ramp up youth sports events

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

While striving to fulfill its mission, the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency has selected a Florida-based consultant to spearhead a study on how youth and amateur sports may enhance local tourism.

The agency announced Tuesday it has selected Sports Facilities Advisory LLC, a business consultant and management service operator from Clearwater, to assess the demand for athletic facilities across the county and the needs of sports organizations that use these venues.

The two parties agreed to not disclose the cost of SFA’s services.

The main objective, according to Chase McClain, sport and recreation marketing director from the tourism agency, is for local venues to host events that would attract young athletes – and their families – from outside Washington County. Local restaurants, hotels and other businesses would benefit, and in many instances, for more than one day.

That is certainly the case every August, when the weeklong PONY League World Series is conducted in Washington.

“We started looking into this a year ago,” McClain said. “We want to grow sports in the county and bring in large-scale tournaments.”

This, however, is not necessarily an encouraging development for proponents of erecting a large sports complex in the county similar to a few that exist elsewhere in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“Talk about a (local) complex is decades old,” McClain said. “Topography is not on our side in Western Pennsylvania, and a lot of times the determining factor is cost. That could be out of our budget. I don’t know if a huge sports complex is in the cards for us.”

McClain emphasized that his agency is eager to see how SFA’s study unfolds. He said the consultant does economic impact reports and financial forecasts for sports tourism and economic development projects to identify the best use of funding sources.

SFA representatives are in this area now, “getting local feedback,” McClain said. He called it a “premier group” that has worked with 2,000 communities on similar projects.

McClain estimates that SFA’s project here will end by “late April, early May.”

Although construction of a large sports complex may not, ultimately, “be in the cards” for Washington County, that is a reality 25 miles west of the city of Washington. A $30 million sportsplex is being built at The Highlands, the expansive multiuse venue in Triadelphia, W.Va., that is on incredibly flat land.

That sportsplex is expected to have two large buildings, with a connector building between, that are expected to house six indoor basketball courts, three to four indoor soccer fields, health-related tenants, training rooms, small locker rooms and attractions for children.

Two full-size outdoor fields, to accommodate multiple sports, also are planned.

Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton said Tuesday that “foundations are in and steel is up. Weather has been a big problem. We’re waiting to get under roof and get the interiors done.”

He anticipates an autumn completion.