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City officials explore future of sports tourism

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James Edwards and Meagan Sanders listen to City Councilor Jacob Roebuck at the Parks and Recreation Commission workshop on Monday evening. Sara Hall and Councilors Angela More and Juan Oropesa pay attention as Roebuck explains the reason he set up the workshop. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The city of Roswell’s Parks and Recreation Commission, along with city councilors, on Monday engaged in a discussion about sports tourism and other dreams the commission has for the future of recreation in Roswell.

Commission Chair JaneAnn Oldrup and members of the commission — James Edwards, Barry Mathison, Meagan Sanders, Kim Elliot and Hannah Robertson — convened at the request of Ward 1 Councilor Jacob Roebuck for the workshop. Councilors Angela Moore, Juan Oropesa and Jeanine Corn Best were also present.

No action was taken. The five commission members, four city councilors and seven city staff members held a conversation about Parks and Recreation’s upcoming marketing plan, plans for the zoo and the vision for sports tourism.

Elizabeth Gilbert, director of administrative services, said the intention of the meeting was to ensure that the city and commission are on the same path regarding goals for Roswell’s quality of life. Gilbert briefed the commission on in-progress projects such as Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center, the Spring River Park & Zoo master plan, a bike and trail master plan with some funding by the state, and the Cielo Grande Recreation Area master plan.

Jim Burress, director of Parks and Recreation and staff liaison for the commission, said he wants assistance from the commission and wants to have all the athletic leagues involved with a potential master plan for sports tourism. Burress said the Parks and Rec staff will be drafting a marketing plan with the department’s expectation for events, and the plan will be taken to the city’s Public Affairs Department, directed by Juanita Jennings.

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Roebuck said the city as a whole is struggling to reach citizens due to the variety of media citizens subscribe to, and the council is asking the staff to step up.

Roebuck said he would like to see the commission focus on one thing and accomplish it to increase citizen morale and belief in city improvements. He said the commission’s work will not fall on deaf ears and Oldrup agreed that was an issue in the past — nothing got done. Mathison said in the past the commission has communicated countless recommendations and nothing has happened after they were sent to the General Services Committee.

“One of the things we talked about a lot — which I thought was a great idea — because we were talking about … how we bring revenue to Roswell and one thing we talked about was sports tourism,” Roebuck said. “How do we utilize, because we’d all love to have a UFO theme park. That’s not what we have right now. What we have right now are some good fields that we need to make great fields. We have some other things like that. How can we utilize those things?”

Oldrup said city resources could be utilized more, like discounts on the golf courses and other amenities if tourists spend the night in a hotel. To Oldrup’s suggestion, Burress said everything will fall into place once the rec center is built. Planning Manager Bill Morris said the Old Municipal Airport plan is in motion, and added the area will “get active very quickly” when Game & Fish comes in July.

Morris asked how much space is needed for the recreation portions of the Cielo Grande area. “There’s more than one train of thought whether its the sports tourism or just open field — football, soccer, special events,” Burress said. “So I need input, so we are doing what the people here in Roswell need and what they expect over the next years. We get it in the master plan — with a fish pond, and so that’s the park side.

“Now it’s time to the ask the citizens to help. You hear comments, ‘well nothing’s changed for 20 years’ — so I just named every single one of my departments that has something going on. So I would be more than happy that the citizens get involved whether it is volunteering, helping me with my trails, docent programs at the zoo, volunteers for my rec staff. It would be fantastic. Or even any of the businesses or individuals here within this part of the state that would be willing to participate financially.”

Mathison asked for a few more fields at Noon Optimist’s Park to host baseball tournaments — saying he thought sports tourism could be a revenue generator for the city. Other than donations, Mathison said gross receipts tax are “the only way we are going to be able to fund a lot of what we would love to do.”

“I think we’ve really got to get more competitive with other areas,” Mathison said. “We are in a perfect location for sports tourism here in Roswell and for that southeast New Mexico-West Texas area. We’ve got to capitalize on it.”

Mathison said three tournaments are coming up and the leagues are working together to make things run smoothly. Mathison said the Noon Optimists have been saving for lights for the field to answer Councilor Best’s question regarding their funding. Best asked if the city should unite and create something similar to the Bob Forrest Youth Sports Complex in Carlsbad. Morris also shared the idea of a large complex.

“That’s another area where I think we need to concentrate on for cost recovery, and not keep eating up our citizens to have use of these fields and that field, to put all of this money down,” Mathison said, addressing finances. “Because most of these individual teams that are at the grassroots of this don’t have that kind of income and are doing something different because of that. We need to get the money from the heads and beds more than anything.”

Project Manager Kevin Dillon said the council should ensure funds are returning to the sports events raising the funds, to recondition the facilities after the large-scale events.

“I love these things that have a cross benefit — helps the local people,” Roebuck said. “We put money into the fields, it improves the quality of life of the people and if we can add that tourism benefit onto it — how can the council say no to that, right? That’s exactly what we are supposed to be doing. We are supposed to be increasing our GRT and helping the local people.”

“If you give us something, a one, two, three — then we can get behind you,” Councilor Moore said to the commission. “If everybody is just staying with the plan and we are still going to get a field, I need you to say where the field is going to be, we need this acre, we need this and those kinds of things. That’s what you have to come to us with — not just say we’ve all got a dream. We would all love to have a big field for games.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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