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Rec complex bringing in business

VIDALIA — Vidalia’s recreation complex may have cost $6.5 million to complete, but city and parish officials hope hungry and sleepy visitors will soon return their investment.

Concordia Recreation District 3 President Marc Archer said renting out the fields provides an opportunity for local business to prosper.

“We are not a for-profit organization,” Archer said. “We are providing the facilities so that the city can benefit indirectly through sales tax.”

The recreation district charges $45 per field, per day to use the fields. An additional $35 is charged per day, per field for lights.

The recreation board charges an additional, negotiable fee if tournaments charge admission or run a concession stand.

“We make an average of $350 per tournament, but our expenses for that tournament may be $348,” Archer said. “The real money-maker is the restaurants and hotels that people stay in when they come to visit.”

One indicator of the complex’s success is the Vidalia sales tax fund, Mayor Hyram Copeland said. It has increased from $1.9 million last year to $2.1 million in 2013.

“I’m elated with the results we have had in the short time it has been,” he said. “Renting out the fields is an economic driver for the city.”

But Vidalia may be missing out on additional sales tax revenue because of a lack of hotels and restaurants.

City of Vidalia’s public relations director Sheri Rabb said she recently referred a group of parents across the river, to Natchez, because the hotels in Vidalia were full.

“It would be great if we had enough hotels to fit everyone here in Vidalia,” Rabb said. “We just don’t have enough room.”

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development Director Heather Malone said she recently talked to two different developers about building hotels in Vidalia.

One is interested in building on the Vidalia Riverfront. The other is looking at building a hotel near the recreation complex.

“I don’t look at it as a shortage, but rather a tremendous opportunity to expand and take advantage of the sales tax revenue,” Malone said.

A weekend stay for one family could cost as much or more than Concordia Recreation District 3 charges for renting the fields. For example, the Comfort Suites — on the Vidalia Riverfront — charges $135 per day for a room with two queen size beds facing the river on the weekend.

Restaurants and local shops should also be factored into the profit from tournaments, Copeland said. He estimated that each visiting family spends $150 per day.

“If a family is in town, they are going to have to eat,” he said. “They’ll probably buy gas, too. People are going to spend money. All local businesses benefit from tournaments.”

Though city and parish officials are happy with the economic results from tournaments, more success may be on the horizon.

Vidalia parks and recreation director Johnny Hoffpauir said he has six tournaments planned for the immediate future. The complex will host the Southwest Region championship for Senior Little League Softball in July.

“That’s eight states coming all the way from New Mexico,” he said. “People know that we have state-of-the-art fields. It’s going to benefit the youth of Vidalia and the economy, too.”