Lear Park Groundbreaking Means Big Things - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/05/06-Longview

Lear Park Groundbreaking Means Big Things

It's a facility city leaders hope will make Longview a "mecca" for sports tourism. Lear Park is a state of the art, 200 acre sports complex that was proposed to voters back in 2002. The project has been under construction since then, with five total phases. Tuesday, Phase IV is officially underway.    

City leaders and committee members "turned dirt" to kick off the much-anticipated phase. It includes construction of the first four of eight brand new baseball fields, two more softball fields, and more parking and concessions stands throughout the complex.   

"There could be as much as a 3 million dollar weekend," says Dave Owens, sports tourism coordinator for the City of Longview.

City officials think the Lear Park complex will draw soccer, softball and baseball tournaments to the park and that'll mean "big bucks", which is good for many local businesses. 

"Some of the hotels that are on the interstate of town, if you speak to them , you'll find that they love seeing these tournaments. They book a lot for these tournaments," says Mayor Jay Dean.

Through tournaments, Mayor Dean says already the 15 completed soccer fields and six softball fields have pumped 25 million dollars back into the local economy.

"We have first class facilities here that people will love coming to. I've spoken to people in Shreveport, Dallas, when they hear about a girl softball tournament going on in Longview, they want to be here because our facilities are second to none," says the Mayor.

In a year, what's dirt now will be home to four brand new baseball fields and committee members say based on past soccer and softball tournaments, they hope the fields will bring in even more money to Longview. 

"It's going to fill up motels, it's going to bring people in the restaurants, but it's also going to expose our city to potential other businesses that might want to come into this area," says David McWhorter, co-chair of Longview First, the committee behind Lear Park.

So even if you're not a die-hard sports fan, consider this: the more dollars spent in the city means the less your property tax will be at the end of the day.

The bond for Phase IV was nine million dollars approved back in May 2004, but projected bids put it at 14 million; however, after some cuts, it will ultimately cost 11 million dollars, and take a year to complete.

When its done, Lear Park will boast eight baseball fields, eight softball fields, and 15 soccer fields.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: tracy@kltv.com.  

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