The red zone has potentially affected the plans for the sports plex in McCracken County. The sports plex project is set to break ground this year, however, the money designated for the project has been strained due to the pandemic.
McCracken County Judge Executive Craig Clymer said, "It's made us have to look and see if we can find other avenues of revenue." The sports plex was designed to replace the old Paducah City ball fields located at Noble Park in Paducah and the soccer fields located at the former McCracken County landfill. The money to build the new outdoor sports plex was to be generated from the hotel occupancy sales tax. The budgeted amount for the project is one million dollars. As of the first of December 2020, $800,000 had been collected.
The tourism industry which includes hotels has been greatly affected this year due to the pandemic. The hotel industry and the restaurant industry have been two of the hardest hit across the board. Both could fall under the category of tourism. In McCracken County, hotel occupancy rates are down 22.3% at 44.8% for 2020. With fewer hotel stays there's less taxable income being collected.
Judge Clymer is discussing other ways to work around the shortfall. He suggested the possibility of revenue bonds or a financial partnership with the City of Paducah. Regardless, the project won't be postponed. There is a likelihood that the number of available fields may be reduced at the start with a plan to build more fields later down the line.
The county acquired Bluegrass Downs last year and the plan was to build the outdoor sports plex on the land donated to the county. The location of Bluegrass Downs is down the road from the old Noble Park ball fields. The McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission paid for a study last year to ensure the project wouldn't affect the land or the flow of water, according to the commission chair Jim Dudley.
This summer the indoor recreational sports plex was a great addition boosting tourism and promoting future tournaments. The idea behind each of the projects is to have tournaments that generate dollars for the community. The indoor summer tournaments played in 'a bubble' much like the NBA. For reasons that are obvious, the 'bubble' was designed to keep activities moving forward while being extremely COVID cautious. Fewer crowds were easier to social distance and the venue was more easily sanitized...not to mention better contact tracing in case of an outbreak.
After red zone counties experienced a second school shutdown late in the year, tournaments were suspended. The hope is that tournament play can get back to semi-normal soon and give the hotel businesses a boost generating the dollars needed to complete the sports plex project as planned.
Getting the economy up and running again is essential to all of us. Getting COVID-19 vaccinations will be a real game changer moving forward for spring and summer tournaments.