Communities in Georgia often spend public dollars on sports facilities with economic development in mind. Think a new major league baseball stadium in Cobb County. But not every sports-centric development is that large. In Macon, for example, money was poured into a new tennis complex.
Macon-Bibb County has taken the adage spend money to make money to the tennis court. About $1 million from a 1 cent sales tax increase for special project went to renovate the county’s John Drew Tennis Center.
The hope is big economic returns.
Recently the Southern Level tournament was held for more than 250 players under 12 years old.
Kenneth and Felicia Wheatland drove seven hours from Jackson, Mississippi to bring their 11-year-old daughter Makenna to play. They spent a few hundred dollars to be in town for the tournament.
Carl Hodge is the tennis manager for Macon-Bibb’s Parks and Recreation Department and the mastermind behind bringing in this tournament. "According to the National Parks and Recreation they say that for every $1 million that comes into a community, 16 full time jobs are created," Hodge says. "When that dollar comes into that community it moves around and it will move seven times before it leaves the community."
Hodge says John Drew hosted 21 events last year which brought in about $8.5 million.
"It’s almost like Hartsfield Airport. If you come through Georgia and you are going to make it to play college tennis, you had to come through Macon and JDS, " says Rick Davison of the United States Tennis Association’s southern office in Atlanta.
Macon is hardly alone in banking on tennis as a moneymaker. Rome will open a new tennis center in June.
"Cities like Macon, Rome, Athens, Augusta…a tennis tournament is huge, because when you start bringing in 700-800 players, 1200 players. That’s a huge impact as far as the impact there" says Davison.
Aside from economic impact, the community also gets some professional courts to play on, plus some great tennis to watch.
So while fingers are crossed in hopes that Atlanta will be selected to host the Super Bowl in either 2019 or 2020 – other communities are serving up tennis as a way to bring in some business.