NEWS

Morgan Sports Center brings in the bucks

TINA HARBUCK
The ECL Destin Rocket's Lacrosse Jamboree drew in visitors from Alabama and Mississippi.

There's more that goes on at Morgan Sports Center than city softball leagues, kickball and flag football.

The fields at Morgan's are utilized on the weekends by teams from all over the United States that bring in the dollars for area lodging and restaurants.

"With the usage of the fields, well over a million has been brought into the economy," said Lance Johnson, city of Destin parks and recreation department director.

Morgan's consists of four softball fields; two little league fields; and three multi-purpose fields for football and soccer.

Since March, Morgan's has been the go-to field for about 20 tournaments, from rugby to lacrosse, to soccer, baseball and football.

"For the last two months, it's been every weekend, except for one," Johnson said.

In July, the Morgan Sports Center was the host field for the USSSA World Series that brought in more than 8,000 people over a three-week span.

"In the last week alone we had a 120 teams," Johnson said, which adds up to about 1,200 people counting players and parents.

This was the second year for the USSSA World Series to be held in Destin.

"The response has been very positive. They all love our facilities," Johnson said.

"The turf on our fields is as about as good as you can get," he added.

This time of year, the city crews mow the fields about twice a week which adds up to about 12 hours. Throw in another hour for grooming and chalking, plus a couple of more for "dressing it up for tournaments," and it’s a job just in the upkeep.

But the maintenance is paying off.

"All the ones (tournaments) we've hosted this year have indicated they are coming back. So we're holding them a spot for next year," Johnson said.

Hosting the tournaments is a "huge win for the area," Johnson said, noting the people stay and eat locally.

From March to July, the tournaments at Morgan Sports Center have brought in approximately 19,455 people. The largest draw was the USSSA World Series, followed by the Emerald Coast Cup Soccer Tournament in May that pulled in 2,500 and the RAD FC Beat the Heat Soccer Tournament in early March which drew about 1,800.

There are a couple of more tournaments scheduled in the next three months, the USSSA White Sand Baseball Tournament, Oct. 13; and the FC Dallas Soccer Rodeo, Oct. 19-20 which is expected to bring in about 2,400 people.

"This will be their eighth year coming back," Johnson said of the soccer rodeo.

In the meantime, the Morgan Sports Center will be getting back to its core programs in just a few weeks with softball, youth football and soccer hitting the fields.

All in all, "It's really been a great year," Johnson said.