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City takes first steps into sports tourism | Local News

Roswell does not have the facilities to host large sports events like communities in the region but now has a five-year plan to attract smaller, regional events.

The five-year plan and an inventory of city sports facilities was discussed Wednesday at the Roswell City Council’s General Services Committee. The plan was presented for information only and no action was taken.

Sports tourism is any sports-related event that brings people to town for an overnight stay, Juanita Jennings, public affairs director, said.

The city added a sports tourism sales manager to the public affairs staff last year. Sean Lewis resigned from that position this week to take a job with the state, Jennings said, but he did a lot of groundwork in the several months that he was here, she said.

The city is seeking to fill the position.

Having that position could help a flag football tournament grow to the magnitude of Hike It and Spike It, the tournament that took place in Roswell for 24 years. A new flag football tournament, Revive Roswell, was played in early June at Cielo Grande Recreation Area with more than 70 teams.

“We never really had a dedicated individual that is going to fulfill that. That’s the beauty in the opportunity that we have now is that there’s somebody who is sports-focused,” she said.

Hike It and Spike It organizers announced in October they were disbanding the event after having to cancel it for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its last tournament in 2019, Hike It and Spike It involved 471 teams and more than 3,300 players. It was estimated to have had a $3.29 million direct economic impact and a $12.1 million indirect impact in Roswell, as well as raising thousands of dollars for local charities.

Overall, however, the city’s plan is to market itself for smaller, regional sporting events, Jennings said. That’s due to the available facilities and their conditions.

Lewis and Recreation Director Alex Diaz conducted an inventory of the city’s facilities and found that while Roswell’s location as a travel hub in the region and its weather make it a good location for tournaments, it’s lacking the number of fields, staffing and modern infrastructure for large events.

“The reality of where we’re at is we are a regional sports-tourism market. Holding a national tournament of any sort is probably not realistic. What is, is a regional-based, meaning smaller, maybe state depending on what the sport is,” she said.

After conducting the inventory, Diaz and Jennings said they asked local leagues and associations to create a “wish list” of upgrades for the facilities they use. Those became part of a five-year infrastructure plan for the fields and includes items such as netting for Randy Willis Field and Joe Bauman Stadium, new bleachers for the Noon Optimist Little League Field, new lights at Stiles Field, the McVay Softball Complex and Wool Bowl softball fields and reseeding at Cielo Grande.

“Everything’s playable, it’s just old. So that’s really what the five-year plan was focused on, how can we get rid of some of the old stuff and replace it with some updated things, and then spreading it out over five years because that’s the way to make things cost-effective,” Diaz said.

The presentation to the General Services Committee also addressed a proposed baseball and softball tournament complex for Cielo Grande.

A master plan for the 12-field complex was presented to the Roswell City Council’s Infrastructure Committee in January. The plan, by Albuquerque engineering firm Bohannan Huston, has a total price tag of almost $61 million. The plan has only been discussed in the committee and not brought forward to the full council at this time.

“What a lot of sports tourism towns tend to have in baseball is one complex that tends to have about 12 fields to be able to run a tournament all in one,” Diaz said.

Furthermore, while the city has facilities for a larger soccer event, others such as a state cheer or basketball competition would not be possible without partnering with entities such as Roswell Independent School District or the New Mexico Military Institute to use their gyms, Jennings said.

In the meantime, along with the smaller tournaments, attracting non-traditional sports such as terrain runs, the Firefighter Challenge or cornhole will be a focus, Diaz said.

“I think that’s going to be helping Roswell more, at least as we get going, and that will be our starting point,” he said.

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Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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