Business owners close to the Shawnee Park Multi-Sport Complex are anticipating the park’s tournaments will bring more people through their doors.
Dunbar Plaza Hotel, about a 2-mile drive from the park, is being renovated before the park construction is completed.
“This is going to change the whole dynamic around here,” said Steve Callis, interim manager of the Dunbar Plaza Hotel. “We might sound overly optimistic, but we don’t think we are. We think this is going to change this town.”
The renovations to the hotel wouldn’t be close to the same extent if not for the sports complex, Callis said. All of the hotel’s 81 rooms will be changed.
Callis said the hotel is looking to join a national chain, which will further help with business, especially as people are drawn to the area for tournaments.
On April 20, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the Shawnee complex, as well as the Barboursville Soccer Complex, will host the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships and the 2019 and 2020 Eastern Presidents Cup.
The estimated economic impact for those three tournaments is $32 million, according to the governor’s news release.
The estimated annual economic impact from the complex is $40 million to $50 million, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango said.
“We intend to host not just those tournaments, but many tournaments throughout the years,” Salango said.
Angela Harding is the general manager of the Sleep Inn & Suites in Cross Lanes. She owns the hotel with her husband.
“We’re very excited for the additional business that it should create, especially on the weekends,” Harding said.
Harding said Shawnee Park’s impact on businesses could be far-reaching.
“Some of the tournaments they are talking about are huge tournaments, so I think it will not only fill up the [hotels in the] area surrounding the Shawnee Park complex, it will spread out to Charleston and, possibly, to Barboursville,” Harding said.
Cafe Crema moved to its Dunbar location in January. Elaine Abdalla, whose mother is the owner, said they did not know about the sports complex before the move.
“We kind of got lucky getting in this area before we even knew that was going in, so it was just a plus, because that’s going to help us out a lot,” Abdalla said.
Jim Smith is one of the four co-owners of Ridge View BBQ, a restaurant about a half-mile from the park, in Institute.
Smith said he doesn’t want to put the cart before the horse about the complex’s potential financial effects on his restaurant, but he expects the complex to benefit the entire county.
During tournaments at the Barboursville Soccer Complex, Smith said, his Institute business got a boost.
“People from Connecticut will rent our restaurant after we close in the evening,” Smith said. “We’re hoping that it will bring a lot of weekend catering for teams.”
Ridge View BBQ is closed on the weekends, generally to make room for catering, but Smith said he might consider opening up the restaurant on summer weekends to attract the tournament customers.
“We’d like to wait and see,” Smith said. “We’re very flexible on how we operate.”
South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said that, while a new shopping center being put in South Charleston could see an increase in business from the sports complex, the benefits would be mutual.
“They both can feed off of each other,” Mullens said.
Mullens said that when the Kanawha County Commission is competing with others to bring large tournaments into town, the shopping center is a feather in the cap of a bundle of attractions.
Mullens said that people should be able to shop in the new center, which will be located off the Interstate 64 MacCorkle Avenue exit, by 2020.
The Shawnee Park construction is being broken up into two phases, Salango said. The first phase will be open by July 10 and the second phase will be open by spring 2019.
According to an email from Salango, these phases are:
- Installation of turf fields for soccer, lacrosse and football.
- Rehabilitating existing park basketball courts. The courts were opened on May 15.
- Installations of an entrance building with concessions and restrooms, a large parking lot, Musco lighting and a 1-mile walking track.
- Installation of four fields for baseball and softball. These will have turf infields.
- Installation of a two-story concession stand and press box.
- Leveling and seeding of about 30 acres of land to make way for additional fields.