Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto discussed the potential future of sports tourism in the county Wednesday during his State of County Address to the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce.
Hutto said conversations surrounding the need for additional sports facilities and complexes took for the last few years, with the county now in position to be able to explore options.
“We know that many of you parents get in the car on the weekend and travel somewhere else to play ball. We want to create that atmosphere here. We had to let the [Wilson County Expo Center] show a profit, we felt like, before we invested some more money in that, but it’s on the horizon,” Hutto said.
Hutto said one possibility includes a turf-surfaced outdoor facility suitable for tournament play.
In 2015, county municipalities started discussions on a potential partnership, spearheaded by former Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, aimed at increasing tourism in the area through recreation.
With the pilot, each city would designate 150 acres as a tourism development district that would serve as a funding source for future recreational projects. The county could also designate 150 acres. The 150 acres allotted in each city could also be split into five different districts with no district less than 10 acres.
New growth money generated in the tourism development districts would be placed under the direction of each individual county-city development board.
The three municipalities would transfer 10 percent of the county’s share of revenue generated within the designated district on an annual basis, and the funds would be transferred to whichever fund the county deemed appropriate.
Generated funds would be designated for improvements within each municipality to support the development of projects, which would be designed to increase the tourism industry through additional hotel and motel stays, retail sales and restaurant support of the area.
The project fizzled after several Wilson County commissioners questioned the county’s ability to contribute to the project as it faced concerns about employee pay and rising insurance costs.
“I conveyed that the county has problems. We have insurance problems. The only problem we have is money. I conveyed to the mayor that I could not get behind this. We’re just not in position to do it,” Commissioner Mike Justice, Budget Committee chairman, said last year.
Hutto said he believes additional recreational facilities would benefit the county.
“It would really set us up to have parents come here with their children to play ball Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It increases our sales tax and hotel-motel tax. I don’t have to build schools, roads and jails [for them], because those folks will go home,” Hutto said.
By Xavier Smith