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Land of the Ozarks: A New Sports Destination?

25 Feb, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic
Area Hopes to Become a Youth Baseball and Softball Destination with New Complex

Attracting youth baseball and softball is the goal, and two St. Louis-area sports radio hosts are forming a coalition to build a massive new sports complex near the Lake of the Ozarks area of Missouri. The two men, Bob Ramsey and Jeff Vernetti, host a sports radio talk show on 920 AM in St. Louis, and recently joined to form an organization called “Ballparks of the Ozarks, LLC.” Together, they have purchased 239 acres west of Camdenton along Highway 54. The proposed state-of-the-art sports complex would feature about a dozen fields for youth sports.

The goal of the project is to provide a destination attraction, bringing youth baseball teams and tournaments from across the nation to the region, according to area news site LakeExpo.com. With them, it’s hoped that the ballparks will also bring sports tourism dollars into the Lake area from tournament participants, leagues, and their families seek lodging, dining, and shopping throughout the region.

Eric Hooper, the owner of Greater Midwest Baseball, has been tapped to help acquire teams for tournaments. Greater Midwest Baseball currently organizes tournaments for more than 3,000 teams nationwide every year.

Vernetti referred to the Lake of the Ozarks region as “one of the few centrally-located resort destinations” in the country, and noted that its centralized location and proximity to airports make the region a perfect place for teams from across the nation to travel to for competitions. Lake of the Ozarks is located near the Osage River in the northern part of the Ozarks in central Missouri. The project’s proponents chose the site because it’s large, flat and ready for building, while also being close to the lake area’s current visitor amenities. They note that similar youth sports complexes in neighboring states tend to be located in very remote areas, which does not make them attractive for sports tourism.

Vernetti and Ramsey are now hoping to secure federal grant funding to help build the new complex, though they emphasized that the project’s fate is not dependent upon those funds. The project, once approved, will be completed in phases. Architects and surveyors are currently analyzing the property and drawing plans, and Ballparks of the Ozarks, LLC hopes to hold a groundbreaking ceremony this spring.

“How do you find something that’s close to the water and drivable to all the key sites?” asked Vernetti. “From our site to the outlet mall, it’s less than 20 minutes.”

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