Elizabethtown, Kentucky: Striking it Rich
29 Feb, 2012By: Peter Francesconi
Officials in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, are poised to strike gold. No, they’re not planning a raid on the bullion repository at Fort Knox, which is just 15 miles away. The source of their rich optimism is the 157-acre Elizabethtown Sports Park, a state-of-the-art $29 million youth sports complex slated to open in July. The park is expected to attract a mother lode of regional and national youth tournaments every year on its sports fields, baseball and softball diamonds, and more.
“We’re already booked through fall 2012, and now we’re focusing on 2013 and 2014 events,” says Janna Clark, the sports and sales director for the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau. “In terms of youth sports facilities, the Elizabethtown Sports Park is on a whole different level. It’s one thing to say you’re building a sports park; it’s another to say it will make everyone’s experience unique—athletes, parents, spectators, coaches, sponsors and vendors.”
The Elizabethtown Sports Park, which was featured in a New York Times article in September, has impressive facilities:
• 12 soccer/lacrosse/field hockey fields, including two synthetic turf championship sports fields
• 12 baseball/softball/fast-pitch diamonds, arranged in three clover-leafs or 'quads'
• Lighting on all full-size fields
• Three large pavilions for ceremonies and events, including meeting space and vendor areas.
• An ADA-accessible baseball diamond made of a rubberized material for physically disabled athletes
• Eight restroom locations, including six with 'family' restrooms
• Six full-service concession stands
• Convenient parking for cars and buses
• Wi-fi throughout the park.
Unique, ‘Professional’ Experience
The fields in the sports park provide athletes, coaches and spectators with the closest thing to a professional setting. The baseball diamonds, which have real warning tracks in the outfield, feature brick dugouts outfitted with everything a team needs, including benches, bat racks and shelving. The wireless scoreboards on all 12 baseball diamonds and two championship fields give not just the score, but key event details as well.
Tournament directors, event officials and coaches will appreciate the air-conditioned meeting spaces that are available. Officials also have their own locker rooms. Space is available to set up a media center, and organizers can easily 'plug in' to provide real-time data and stats. In fact, the on-site wi-fi tower not only will help keep athletes, parents and spectators in touch with those back home, but also will be used to stream games and matches live. “It’s all very cutting-edge when it comes to a youth sports park environment,” says Clark.
There also is plenty of covered pavilion vendor space, so tournament organizers can easily set up a vendor or sponsorship 'village.' In addition, each booth will have access to water and electrical power.
The layout of the site also makes it convenient for organizers and visitors. “As far as the organization of tournaments and special events, we’re set up to provide any type of specialized traffic flow and crowd control an event may need,” says Clark.
The size and design of the sports park ensures that events stay on schedule. In addition to lighting on all full-size fields, the sophisticated drainage system on all fields and baseball diamonds will keep tournament play moving and help keep players safe.
Families and Spectators
In the travel sports market, often a youth tournament becomes a family vacation, as parents, siblings, even grandparents hit the road to watch their young athlete compete. The Elizabethtown Sports Park is uniquely set up so families are comfortable, no matter what the ages.
Situated in key areas throughout the 157 acres are four playgrounds. Parents can easily watch one child competing on the sports field while also keeping an eye on siblings enjoying themselves in a safe playground environment. The six family restrooms, which include plenty of changing space, are a rare luxury in a sports complex like this. “Anyone who’s ever traveled with children understands the value of having a family restroom available,” says Clark.
Full-service concession stands are conveniently located in the park and eliminate the need to go off-site for meals. Another attractive element is the walking/jogging trail—a three-mile, mostly paved loop that nearly encircles the sports park and is suitable for bicycles, strollers and wheelchairs. Families, athletes and spectators can spend the entire day in the park.
“Our goal is to have families and all spectators feel comfortable at all times,” says Clark. “The appeal of a brand-new park like this is obvious. But what we’re focusing on is making sure when people come back the second, third and fourth times, they have just as great an experience as the first time.”
Construction of the park started in June 2010 after much research and consideration by town officials who were looking for ways to boost tourism. Rather than build an amusement park or convention center, they decided to create something that could also be used by the community. “Elizabethtown is very family-oriented, so we wanted a facility that not only makes us a player in the traveling sports arena, but also something our own residents can use,” says Clark.
From a service perspective, the community is well-suited for the youth sports market, with more than 1,500 economical and excellent hotel rooms and over 100 restaurants serving all types of cuisine. And city officials expect the new sports park will help to attract even more development to accommodate guests.
And there is plenty to do in Elizabethtown and Hardin County—historical sites and museums abound, including Civil War and military attractions. There are also more than 18 miles of recreational trails, golf and tennis in the area.
Elizabethtown also is convenient to get to, centrally located within 400 miles of 12 major U.S. cities (including Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Lexington, Memphis, Nashville and St. Louis), and less than a 40-minute drive to the Louisville International Airport. The city sits at the intersection of three major highways: I-65, the Bluegrass Parkway and the Western Kentucky Parkway.
Fort Knox may have its riches hidden from view in guarded vaults, but nearby Elizabethtown is ready to show off its impressive new sports park—and the wealth of riches it can bring to athletes, spectators, organizers, sponsors and fans.
(Find out more about the Elizabethtown Sports Park at www.elizabethtownsportspark.com or by calling 800-437-0092, and follow progress and events on Facebook and Twitter.