I spent the past few days at a lacrosse tournament at impeccable facilities not too far from Fort Mill and yet most of my time was spent wondering why fields and events like that couldn’t be held in the town itself.
Several times a year, my kids have played over weekends at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill or Elon Park in South Charlotte at huge events. We are talking about sporting contests that have drawn teams from all over the country. Rock Hill has even hosted the Youth National Soccer Championships. Even at smaller tournaments, you usually can plan on seeing close to 50 teams participate. You know what 50 teams brings? Groups of parents, grandparents, family and friends to cheer them on. It might even result in a lot of bored siblings hating their lot in life, but surely eyeing a sugary snack or a cooling treat to ease them through the painful boredom.
It results in people needing to fuel up – both their bodies and vehicles – and it results in people needing to rest, preferably on a soft pillow in an air-conditioned hotel room.
In a few, short years, my children will be leaving the youth events for high school sports, but I can’t help but think Fort Mill is primed to take advantage of our location and wealth of land to create a destination to host major events. With the Leroy Springs contract ending in a few years and uncertainty over what will happen to those facilities, it becomes an even bigger concern.
I know there are hurdles to overcome. Youth facilities don’t have the glitz and glamour of business parks and strip malls, especially those that are half-inhabited. They don’t have the panache of big warehouse buildings that rotate tenants every time the economy cycles downward. They also need to have serviceable hotels nearby, which might require cleaning up those overnight establishments by the interstate that have people in stilettos cruising the parking lots and at least one person impersonating an FBI agent approaching patrons in the halls.
However, the upside of having a top-notch sports center is huge. Fort Mill is already a destination due to the excellent school system, and the last time I looked, those schools are filled with active kids. Fort Mill is easily accessible to travelers from both the south and north, and we can provide more affordable options for budget-minded participants. I’d almost even claim we have a huge expanse ready to be converted to fields where the Knights Castle is, but that land is already staked out by the Cato Corp.
I don’t know about you, but holding the Annual Cato Classic at the Cato Complex sounds kind of catchy.
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