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Editorial: Creating Franklin sports corporation worth a look

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A partnership among local government, business and nonprofit organizations is looking at promoting Franklin as a destination for sporting events.

Franklin Community School Corp., Franklin College, Franklin city government and Johnson Memorial Hospital teamed up and sought the help of a city-funded organization to look into creating a sports corporation. The organization would market the city and its facilities to have youth sports events, such as basketball tournaments or regional swimming meets.

The goal would be to bring more people — and their money — into Franklin.

“I hope it brings a lot of people to Franklin who see what we have as a city and community and want to spend time and money here and maybe some other people then who want to develop businesses. It’s purely economic development. I think that’s the whole purpose. I don’t think it’s to say we’ve had another basketball tournament,” Franklin College President James “Jay” Moseley said.

City government would help promote events and welcome people to Franklin as well as provide a few park facilities and staff members to help run events, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

“Are we missing out on some things? If we are, what can we do to compensate to attract more traffic to Franklin if we can host some of these sporting events,” he said.

Franklin Community Schools and Franklin College would provide facilities, while Johnson Memorial Hospital and the city government would play a support role.

Before the Franklin Sports Corp. would be created, a study will be done to identify what kind of sporting events might be best suited for Franklin and how much money those events could bring into the community. If the study shows a sports corporation could bring more events and money into the city, the group could be formed and a director hired as soon as this year. But questions about how the corporation would be funded have yet to be answered.

The Franklin Development Corp., a nonprofit organization that was created and funded by the city, has approved spending $24,000 to study the idea. The study will determine the economic impact a sports corporation might have on Franklin. The city, school district, college and hospital will review the report and decide if the benefits of the new organization outweigh the startup and operating costs.

If officials decide to form the organization, the development agency has promised another $26,000 for startup and operating costs, with the city, school district, college and hospital splitting the rest of the cost.

The goal would be for the sports corporation to be able to pay its own expenses by the fifth year, according to Franklin Community Schools executive director of finance Jeff Mercer.

But it’s not yet clear who would pay the bills until that point and whether the money would come from the Franklin Development Corp., from contributions from the city, school district, college and hospital, or some combination.

If the study determines such an organization would benefit the community, it’s vital that the financial arrangement be worked out before the project gets too far along.

The idea of a sports corporation to attract events is worth considering. But some key questions need to be answered.

Foremost is whether the effort can be self-sustaining. If it can’t bring in enough revenue to pay for expenses, then its worth would be doubtful.

Second, would a sports entity be better off as part of a broader tourism effort, perhaps involving the entire county, rather than just Franklin. After all, the spinoff economic benefits likely would stretch beyond the Franklin city limits.

As we said, the issue is worth exploring. But we would want to see major questions addressed before committing to it.

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