Youth Sports: The Industry Eugene Can’t Afford to Ignore

Think of a multi-billion dollar industry. Picture the companies, investors, and stakeholders involved. Chances are, images of kids playing basketball or families traveling to weekend volleyball tournaments are not the first things that come to mind. However, according to a recent article in TIME Magazine, the youth sports market is valued at approximately $15.3 billion. No you didn’t read that wrong, that’s billion, with a “B.” To put that into perspective, you could purchase every professional sports team in Los Angeles for $15.69 billion. Or, you could recreate the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The youth sports industry encompasses much more than the cost of player registration or club fees. It includes team management software, event revenue, sports facilities, equipment and merchandise, and travel. With this in mind, private and public investors are seeking new ways to engage with this growing market. Across the country, forward-thinking communities are building new sports and recreation facilities. But instead of housing professional or minor league teams, these facilities are designed with youth sports in mind.

Tournaments, camps, and championship events can bring significant revenue to a community. “Our moneymaker is regional tournaments, under 16 years of age. Because they bring Mom, Dad, brother, sister, grandparents,” says Andy Cook in the recent TIME article. Mr. Cook is mayor of Westfield, Indiana, a city that has invested heavily in the youth sports market. In 2014, Westfield opened a 400 acre sports complex that houses 31 outdoor sports fields, 26 softball and baseball diamonds, and a 370,000-square-foot indoor facility. By becoming a hub for youth sporting events, Westfield hopes to boost its economy through increased tourism revenue.

Other cities are looking for ways to capitalize on this trend as well. We believe Eugene, Oregon should be one of them. As a city recognized around the world for it’s outdoor recreation opportunities, track and field prowess, and college athletics, Eugene is a logical choice for a youth sports facility. Easy freeway access, airport and train service, and hotel infrastructure make Eugene a prime location for sporting events.

“Visitor spending generated via sports tournaments generates an average of $50 million annually in Lane County” said Janis Ross, Executive Director of Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission. “In addition to this influx of visitor dollars into the county’s economy, sports tourism provides additional benefits to local residents in a variety of ways: Sharpening a focus on health and wellness; strengthening incentives for personal athletic achievement; providing role models for our youth; supporting industry clusters such as trainers, massage therapists and sports medicine; and creating legacy projects we can all enjoy – enhanced running trails, courts and fields.”

Eugene is poised to become a prime destination for the youth sports travel industry. The existing infrastructure of transportation, accommodations, restaurants, and attractions make Eugene an attractive option for organizers of youth sporting events. But Eugene lacks adequate space to host games and tournaments. In 2015, organizers of the Matt Hartner Memorial Volleyball Tournament were forced to turn away 16 teams due to insufficient court space. The tournament brought $1 million of tourism revenue to Lane County but could have had an even greater impact if more teams had been allowed to register.

The new Civic Park facility will include a 40,000 sq. ft. fieldhouse, outdoor turf field, and 2,500 seat stadium.

Eugene Civic Alliance (ECA) recognizes the need for additional fields and courts in Eugene. ECA is currently working to build a new sports and recreation facility called Civic Park. The facility will include a 40,000 square foot indoor field house that will house four middle-school sized basketball courts. These can be converted into two NCAA-size courts or 6-7 smaller courts for volleyball, badminton, pickleball, or futsal. Civic Park will also include two outdoor basketball courts, an outdoor multi-sport turf field, and a 2,500 seat stadium. The facility will serve people of all ages and will provide Eugene with a venue that can host local and regional sporting events. “The addition of a 2,500-seat stadium will provide the opportunity to bid on championship field events, and the flexible configuration and size of the proposed Kidsports Fieldhouse will add to the Eugene area’s inventory of tournament-attracting facilities for volleyball, basketball and other sports” said Travel Lane County President and CEO Kari Westlund.

Civic Park will help fill the gap in Eugene’s court and field requirements. It will allow Eugene to benefit from the burgeoning youth sports tourism industry and will provide a venue for local recreational sports. Just as Civic Stadium served as a hub for community events and recreation, Civic Park will provide a place for people of all ages to enjoy watching and playing sports.


For Further Reading:

TIME Magazine: How Youth Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry 

WBUR: The Big Business of Youth Sports