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Game-changer: Travel teams add up to big business

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Every weekend, dozens of local families pile into the car and drive to Ohio, Michigan or Kentucky, where their children will compete in volleyball or basketball tournaments.

They spend their days in a gymnasium, cheering on sons and daughters. They spend their nights in hotels near that facility. And they spend their money on meals at local restaurants. Some families spend as much as $700 in a weekend, and one team of 10 players, their families and coaches will spend anywhere from $2,280 to $3,000 for a two-night stay at a hotel.

Greenwood and its hotels, shopping centers and restaurants soon could earn a little piece of that spending.

Travel sports is a $9.1 billion industry nationally, according to information on the GoodSports company website. Bartholomew County, for example, hosted 107 sporting events last year outside of high school athletics, bringing in an estimated $12 million, said Jim Dietz, president of Sports Indiana, a statewide organization that promotes sports event tourism.

Seeing a need for a hotel that caters to the athlete and those travel tournaments, a Florida-based company has proposed building a facility that would bring some of those youth and travel teams and their thousands of tournaments here.

GoodSports Enterprises Global has proposed a $22 million project at County Line Road and Interstate 65. The facility would include a hotel and field house, which will have space for six basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts.

The 85,000-square-foot field house will have the capability of switching from hosting basketball games to volleyball matches easily, according to the company website. The field house would be the largest in central Indiana, which could make it easier to attract larger tournaments with about 100 teams, said Don Schumacher, executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions.

“I think in terms of 12 courts in one location, that would definitely be the largest facility around here,” said Suzanne Scheele-Smock, a director for the South Indy Volleyball Club. “Some of these tournaments are established and at the same time each year, but I think there is a market for additional tourneys.”

The Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce does not keep track of sporting events conducted in the area, chamber president Christian Maslowski said. No organization keeps track of those events, and no official from the county has contacted Sports Indiana for help in promoting such events, Dietz said.

About 53,000 athletes participate on travel teams, according to the National Association of Sports Commissions. While the percentage of students playing a sport has decreased slightly, youth who are playing sports are participating with travel teams more frequently, Schumacher said.

The GoodSports facility will be situated close to Interstate 65, and additional hotel rooms, which would be needed for a tournament of 50 or more teams, also are in the area.

The South Indy Volleyball Club has players from Center Grove, Franklin Community and Greenwood high schools, among others in central Indiana, competing on its travel teams. Those players typically travel for club tournaments two or three weekends a month, from January to mid-May. Families will spend gas money to drive their children to locations in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

If tournaments were planned at the field house, local teams would likely jump at the chance to play in them, Scheele-Smock said.

Most volleyball or basketball tournaments will bring in at least 50 teams, with many of them having more than 100, Dietz said.

Those teams each bring about 10 players to a tournament, along with coaches. The families of players typically travel with them, which brings parents and siblings. That can lead to a travel party of about 40 people visiting a community to spend money on hotel rooms and meals.

The GoodSports facility could also benefit other areas of the county when hosting a tournament. Franklin Community High School has a field house with four courts that could be used to host portions of a tournament, Schumacher said.

“If you add those courts in Franklin it allows the event to be bigger,” Schumacher said.

With a bigger basketball or volleyball tournament, more money is brought into the community, he added.

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