Tupelo sports efforts celebrated

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city Parks and Recreation Department won a statewide award Tuesday during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Cheered on by some 300 tourism officials, Parks and Rec Director Don Lewis accepted the Governmental Friend of Tourism Award for the department’s efforts in boosting sports-related tourism.
The department partnered with the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2008 to create the state’s first director of athletic events. Since then, the position at Park and Rec has helped lure dozens of new events to the city – including two major sports tournaments that generated an estimated $500,000 in economic impact over one weekend.
The honor was one of 17 awards presented during the three-day conference sponsored by the Mississippi Tourism Association and hosted by the Tupelo CVB.
“We’re all excited, it’s a huge honor,” Lewis told the Daily Journal afterward. “Our vision in 2008 is just now producing the results we hoped for. This year alone we’ve got 35 major weekend events scheduled so far.”
Seth Gaines, who previously was one of the department’s two sports directors, has held the new position since its creation. He oversees all large state, regional and national events.
Gaines also works closely with the city’s CVB, whose director of sports development, Matt Wyatt, recruits events from across the country to play in Tupelo’s athletic facilities. Neal McCoy was the sports development director for years, until he was promoted recently to the CVB’s deputy director.
Once events are scheduled here, Gaines and the rest of the Parks and Rec staff work to assure they’re successful – which, in turn, can help attract more events.
The city has a soccer complex, baseball complex, softball complex, indoor swimming facility, several disc golf courses, basketball courts, tennis courts and other amenities.
Gaines told the Daily Journal last year that his five-year goal is to increase by 10 percent to 20 percent the number of events requiring overnight stays here. Longer visits fill hotel rooms and restaurant booths, he said, and in turn spur the local economy.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.