The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department was recently recognized on a national level for its work in keeping local sports tourism thriving and successful in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Columbia City Council’s regular meeting last week, Parks and Rec staffers presented an award by Sports Destination Management, which named the department Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism, which was given based on the department’s ability to “host the best sports events, held nationally, in the face of the pandemic that showed creative problem solving, determination and courage.”
The award also considers the department as “heroes” when it comes to how sports tourism is promoted on the local level.
“I can’t think of a better honoree than our parks and rec department,” Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said.
Parks and Recreation Director Mack Reagan also recognized Bill Marbet, who was also given a city proclamation during the meeting for his work in helping local sports organizations, particularly when it comes to keeping the fields clean and up to par for tournaments and other sporting events.
“He actually turns our fields over on most weekends when we have these tournaments. It allows our staff to go home, while his staff is out there, sometimes at 2 am,” Reagan said. “I think it’s good to recognize them, because it’s a big impact on what we do. This is a really good award, and something we’ve been trying to achieve over the last six years.”
Marbet will also be recognized as part of the TSSAA’s 40th class of Hall of Famers in April.
The award also acknowledges that the parks department’s efforts drew a $1.8 million economic impact to the city, Reagan added.
“It met our entire quota from what was done in the past during the entire month of June, which is our ‘money month,’ and so it was a really big deal,” Reagan said. “It was just a massive economic impact and allowed us to do a lot of things.”
Alex Troge, Parks and Rec Operations and Athletic Manager, highlighted some things the city can look forward to in the future regarding upcoming sports events and other department projects.
“We know our [Ridley Sports Complex] is good, but now the nation is starting to recognize just how good it is,” Troge said.
Troge added that this year he hopes the award will grant the department incentives to increase marketing, as well as expand the complex to allow baseball tournaments and more larger events that would draw even more economic growth.
“What Ridley Sports Complex is really about, and what this award encapsulates is that it puts it in perspective on a national scale, and at an actual scale to where we can show people how it can be done,” Troge said.
Reagan closed the presentation by thanking Columbia Police and Fire & Rescue Departments for their work in helping keep events at the Ridley Complex safe and manageable.
“Chief [Ty] Cobb always has emergency personnel out there, and our police department always makes it easier to get people in and out, which is always an issue,” Reagan said.
“When we bring people in, we always want them to spend money on Columbia. That’s the whole thing about economic impact … and this really provides a lot, a lot for not only what we do in our community, but the communities around us.”