Sports Complex at Golden Eagle Regional Park in northeastern Sparks is a star player in the recreational tourism industry of the region.
“We run tournaments basically every month except December,” said Tony Pehle, recreation supervisor for the City of Sparks Parks & Recreation department and a state commissioner with the ASA (soccer).
The 140-acre Golden Eagle park hosts 51 different tournaments for soccer, baseball, youth softball, and adult softball bringing 11,000 visiting teams, plus family and friends, to the area and an estimated 40,000 room nights. Players from all 50 states and Canada have visited the park.
As host of the Triple Crown Sports 18U/Golden National Championship, the park has garnered live national television coverage.
The economic benefit for the region in 2014 was calculated to be $20 million. Pehle estimates that once 2015 numbers are crunched the figure should be about $21 million due to a bump in the number of teams last year.
Local business owners recognize the impact and request schedule information so they can prepare. Pehle said a store manager from the nearby Raley’s told him that the store gets swamped every time there’s a tournament.
When a tournament is in town, “you can go to Legends (Outlets of Sparks) and Scheels and walk around and see tons of people in uniform,” Pehle said. “It’s pretty obvious to local businesses when we have a tournament.”
The park also has an abundance of advertising opportunities, he said. Visiting teams and family don’t know what’s around and are looking for suggestions for places to eat, sleep, get replacement equipment, and find other entertainment when the games are done.
The largest regular tournament at the park is the Senior Softball USA slowpitch competition, which draws 200 teams, Pehle said. Triple Crown World Series youth fast pitch attracts 114 teams and the Blood & Guts adult slowpitch in October includes 160 teams.
“Multiple tournaments have well over a hundred teams,” he said.
The Golden Eagle complex, which opened in April 2008, is the largest public works project in the history of the City of Sparks. Construction costs were nearly $30 million with a majority of the funding coming from RED Development in payment for the Don Mello Sports Complex to make room for the Legends at Sparks. Additional funding included $6 million from consolidated tax revenue bonds, $3.4 million in park impact fees, and $1.8 million from the Washoe County Parks and Open Space Bond, approved by voters in 2000.
Golden Eagle features 1.5 million square feet of artificial turf — the largest area of artificial turf in North America. Another 900,000 square feet of real grass surround the playing fields for those watching games or hanging out at the park. The layout includes six softball fields, two baseball fields, two youth baseball/softball fields, one stadium-size football/soccer field, two multi-purpose fields plus volleyball courts, bocce ball courts, two concessions, a restaurant and a pro shop. Local teams also use the park.
“Locally we’ve always had a good following for softball tournaments,” Pehle said. “Golden Eagle allowed us to host tournaments and bring them to the region on a regular bases. It’s a beautiful complex. We get nothing but rave reviews.
“I wish more of our community would go out and take a look at it. Even local businesses.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.