The city, county and Owensboro Health will put up $600,000 to create an indoor sports facility inside the Owensboro Convention Center, making it available for basketball, volleyball and futsal tournaments.
Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that should mean several million dollars more in tourism spending here each year.
Laura Alexander, general manager of the convention center and the Sportscenter, said the 45,000-square-foot main exhibit hall can be converted into three basketball or futsal courts or nine volleyball courts.
She said the money will be used for portable flooring and seating as well as equipment for each indoor sport, such as basketball goals and volleyball nets.
When the convention center opened in 2014, it was supposed to be available for indoor sports.
But the project ran out of money before it could add the portable flooring and seating.
Alexander said 18 sets of bleachers are included in the project.
In 2018, the CVB approved a $12,500 contract with Pinnacle Indoor Sports of Louisville for a study of the community’s needs for sports facilities.
“We are at a critical point,” Calitri said at the time. “Our challenge is to be able to fill more hotel rooms with two more hotels opening this year and another on the way. We have to generate more occupancy.”
And tournaments are a way of drawing visitors to town and filling hotel beds.
Pinnacle recommended that the infields of the four diamonds at Jack C. Fisher Park be replaced with artificial turf and that a 60,000-square-foot indoor sports facility be built.
The city spent $2.95 million last year on making improvements to Fisher Park.
Now, the city and county are each putting up $150,000 for the convention center upgrade and OH is donating $300,000.
The Pinnacle report said the Owensboro market “is average in terms of the attractions it offers for sports tournaments and its ability to draw participants from a regional area. If a proposed facility were built, the city also would compete for tournaments with regional communities of similar or larger size, such as Elizabethtown, Louisville, Nashville, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago.”
It said, “sports organizations representing volleyball, archery and pickleball have the highest need for indoor tournament locations, which would attract participants from outside the area. Baseball/softball teams are already utilizing Owensboro as a tournament destination, and representatives from organizations Pinnacle interviewed would like to see the existing sites upgraded to compete with newer facilities in the regional marketplace.”
Calitri and Alexander said they’re just now getting ready to start marketing the indoor sports complex.
‘Complete sports solution’Calitri said with the work on Fisher Park and now the improvements to the convention center, Owensboro will have “the complete sports solution.”
He said a 35-team volleyball tournament would bring 420 players to town along with parents, coaches and fans.
That would create business for hotels, restaurants, retailers and attractions, Calitri said.
Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said the increased business for local establishments would mean more jobs and more tax revenue for the city and county.
“This is wonderful,” he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Larry Maglinger said, “This is great news. It’s a great opportunity for Owensboro and Daviess County.”
Steve Johnson, vice president for government and community affairs at OH, said the facility should help improve the health of the community.
Alexander said most of the tournaments will likely be from travel teams between March and late September.
They play outside the regular seasons for their sports.