Tourism in Madison and Morgan County has always been driven by its small-town, Southern charm and meticulously-preserved historical antebellum homes, churches and landmarks. But now Morgan County is quickly becoming a recreation destination due to the county and school system’s joint-use $1.9 million soccer complex in Madison that can accommodate traveling sports teams, school field days, tournaments, competitions, and other large outdoor activities.
“And this is only the beginning,” said Lance Alexander, director of the Morgan County Recreation Department, who noted the county is in the process of budgeting for the development of five more fields and a new community center.
The three fields at the new soccer complex, plus the school system’s fields, are already reaping benefits for the community.
“Our fields, especially with the addition of the soccer complex fields, are a huge draw and a significant economic boost for the community,” said Alexander. “We are jam-packed already.”
The new field complex opened in March 2019. The soccer complex spans across 15 acres on Old Buckhead Road across from Bill Wood Park.
“The coronavirus pandemic slowed things down, but now we are seeing things picking up like we always knew it would,” said Alexander.
According to Alexander, the rec department has about a dozen tournaments slated from now until mid-July, estimating about $200,000 in economic impact for local hotels, restaurants, and shops from these events alone. Alexander estimated the economic impact could be up to $500,000 for the entire tournament season.
“We have hosted travel teams and tournaments for years, but usually only two weeks out of the year. Since the completion of the new soccer complex, we are expanding our tournament season from March to August, every year, which will bring hundreds, if not thousands, of out-of-town visitors to our county. Our goal is to expose people to our county through our recreation opportunities, so they discover all Morgan has to offer. We are a major hub in the state, right in the middle of the state between I-20 and Highway 441. It’s easy access for everyone.”
The rec department is even seeing interest from statewide and national organizations, like Dixie Youth Baseball, which will hold tournaments over two weekends with 12 teams this summer at the new soccer complex.
“We used to host teams from around the state, but now we are getting these national opportunities because of our new fields,” said Alexander.
The rec department has already hosted several travel ball teams and orchestrated a field day for local elementary students, which drew hundreds of children and their families for a day of fun competitions and races.
Alexander believes the new fields are the perfect way to expand tourism appeal in Morgan County.
“We are trying to capitalize on some of these dollars, the tournament teams and their families come through town and they stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, fill up at our gas stations, and shop in our stores and they leave,” said Alexander. “Those dollars help pay for our fields and recreation services to improve the quality of life for hometown citizens.”
According to Alexander, the rec department is hoping to develop five more fields in the coming years and is currently crunching the numbers for funding and considering design elements. Alexander envisions more than just sport-accommodating fields, but a community center and event lawn that could host weddings, parties, movie nights, and more.
“Out of those five fields, one will include surfacing for special needs tournaments and events, so that people in wheelchairs and people using walkers can utilize it,” said Alexander. “We are hoping to accommodate the Wounded Warriors, who are desperately looking for venues to hold their softball tournaments.”
This is just one example of the kind of events the rec fields can accommodate. From tee-ball to fast pitch, from soccer to frisbee, from baseball to archery, there are endless possibilities for recreational uses that will draw diverse out-of-towners into Morgan County.
“This benefits everyone in the community by having out-of-town events paying for our people to have state-of-the-art fields to use,” said Alexander.