DUNBAR, W.Va. — A half a decade later and one local facility is bringing in community sports, out-of-state teams, and over $100 million in revenue.
Area mayors, community members, leaders and sponsors joined the Kanawha County Commission Monday at the Shawnee Sports Complex to recognize its now five year presence in Dunbar, and the series of recreational and economic impacts that its brought with it.
In a recent report from the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, it was announced that the complex has contributed more than $130 million in economic impact to the area since opening on July 10, 2018, something which Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango said is unbelievable.
“You know, we had high hopes when we did it, but to see what its done over the last five years actually just blows me away.”
Salango said that Shawnee has drawn in the attention of athletes and their families from across the board, with approximately 53,564 athletes playing on the field and 134,910 attendees coming in to watch since the facility’s establishment.
He went on to say that over 37,000 hotel rooms were sold since its onset and over 100,000 out-of-state visitors have come to the area through Shawnee events.
“Yeah, it’s exciting, we continue to grow, the sports tourism industry as a whole continues to grow, and we’re making sure that we’re making enhancements to this facility all of the time,” Salango said.
One of the area mayors in attendance for the recognition Monday was Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin who was excited to see how far the facility’s progress has come.
Goodwin, reiterating what Salango said during Monday’s announcement– sports tourism, which was once a $15 billion dollar industry in 2014 is now looking to be over $40 billion today, and she said West Virginia now gets to play a part in that through such a complex.
“That’s a piece of pie that West Virginia was not getting a taste of and now we are,” Goodwin said. “You can just look over these fields and see all of these young kids playing, we tell our kids ‘go out and play’ but we don’t give them a place to play, well, we’ve done that.”
Salango said the Shawnee complex is not only supporting the local economy by bringing in regional and national events, but it’s supporting local youth sports teams. He said it has now become the home field to 25 middle and high school sport organizations and sees thousands of local athletes come through on a weekly basis.
Recently, the commission received word that Shawnee will be host to the 2024 U.S Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup which is expected to bring in about $10 million. They also have bids out for other tournaments to be held at the facility, as well.
Salango said with a space to play for locals and for visitors on a national level alike, the facility is bringing the community the best of both worlds.
“That’s the key, when you have a world-class facility like this, you’re competing on a national level, we’re competing with cities like Miami, Columbus and Cincinnati, we’re getting those tournaments here, and that’s what we wanted, that’s what the goal was from the beginning,” Salango said.
A $3 million grant from Senator Joe Manchin and $1 million grant from Governor Jim Justice was also recently presented to the facility to open a new welcome center. The commission hopes the welcome center to be completed in about a year.