The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

May 15, 2013

Former Mount Hope man invites city government to engage in sports tourism

MOUNT HOPE — A former Mount Hope resident says the town and the region are ripe to develop a sports tourism industry, given the potential of a unique stadium and gymnasiums at the YMCA building and the former Mount Hope High School.

Stewart Payne, a graduate of Mount Hope High School who now lives in San Diego, delivered a presentation to the Mount Hope town council on Tuesday evening that explored opportunities to take a small cut of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Your main regional gap, as I see it, is sports tourism,” said Payne, who owns PDQ Fitness & Sports, a sports programs provider.

Sport tourism refers to attracting visitors to an area to either view or participate in a sporting event like a tournament, race, or series.

Payne suggested pooling resources with other cities in the region; starting a sports commission; and developing a funding plan to rehabilitate the city’s existing sports facilities.

He recommended rehabilitating current facilities like Mount Hope Municipal Stadium with a track, turf field, expanded concessions and seating, and a press box.

A first step could be hiring a consultant to create a build-out plan for around $15,000-$20,000, Payne commented.

Plus he advises building new amenities for soccer, baseball, and other sports, perhaps on lands vacated by the Dunloup Voluntary Floodplain Buyout.

For funding, Payne suggested federal and state sources, crowd funding, memorial bricks, naming rights, and advertising.

The town could also enter into an agreement with Oak Hill, Fayetteville, or Beckley that guarantees hotel bookings from tournaments in exchange for a percentage of the town’s tourism tax. Payne says such agreements are commonplace.

“You don’t currently have hotels so that’s the best way to start generating revenue right now using the assets you have,” he said.

They could also start a sports commission with surrounding towns, Payne said.

Mount Hope sees little benefit from the county’s whitewater industry, or other tourism, because it has few or no hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores.

“Maybe we can gain some traction with this,” said Mayor Michael Martin. “I appreciate what you have to say and I think there’s promise in what you have to say.”

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