Greenville seeking to increase sports tourism

One Eastern Carolina city says it'll save its taxpayers' money thanks to a new initiative to increase sports tourism.

Greenville launched the Greenville-Pitt County Sports Commission this month in the hopes of stimulating its economy by hosting more sporting events.

The city hosted about 60 sporting events and tournaments in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, ranging from little league games to robotics competitions.

"We knew with starting a sports commission it was something that we needed to recruit the larger events," said Gray Williams who is the executive director for the sports commission.

The commission will be aimed at growing Pitt County into a destination for sporting events.

"I think it's something that brings families together, it brings kids together to make friendships and I think it's been a real positive for our family so I think it'd be great to bring more of it around," said Rachelle Hare, the mother of two sons who play in the city's youth baseball league.

Williams says that's one of many sports that could be positively impacted by the sports commission. Sports tourism is an industry that generates $11.4 billion in the United States.

"Last year we had an estimated $14 million of direct economic impact for Greenville-Pitt County," said Williams.

She says that economic impact comes in the form of people spending money at local restaurants, shops, and hotels. Last year folks booked more than 19,000 hotel rooms for sporting events and tournaments hosted in Pitt County. Williams also says that translates to saving taxpayers $105 per year.

"Any opportunity that we have to watch sports or be participating in sports around the city, I think it's good for the kids, it's good for the adults and for the community to get involved," said Hare.

Another part of the commission's goals will be to find private developers to help grow Greenville and Pitt County's existing sports facilities, some of which have hit capacity for spectators.