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Muscle Shoals: Full of athletes, not musicians, seeking fame

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[youtubevid id=”0lNFRLrP014″]

pronounced ‘leh-‘nin-‘grad ‘cow-‘boys.

Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers, although the singles coming out of there these days have a lot more to do with Wilson Sporting Goods than Wilson Pickett.

From the Natchez, Miss., Democrat:

Muscle Shoals has turned into a youth sports Mecca thanks to an aggressive mayor, city council and parks and recreation department and quality recreation facilities built in the past 12 years. …

And one of the reasons the city is able to put so much money into recreation and offer so many different programs is the amount of money they bring in from hosting tournaments at their main facility, the Muscle Shoals Sportsplex.

The Sportsplex is four 300-foot baseball fields in a wheel shape with a press box in the middle. In addition to baseball games played there in the summer, the fields are also used for flag football and soccer games during the fall and winter.

The Sportsplex was built in 1997 at a cost of $1.4 million using a half-cent sales tax the city uses for what they call capital projects. … [The] tax wasn’t originally for building recreation facilities, but for storm drainage projects.

They’re not swimming in open sewage in Muscle Shoals — it turned out the city of 12,000 had extra money after repairing its drains.

[T]he Sportsplex will usually host 10-15 tournaments per year, with two of them usually being large tournaments.

This year, Muscle Shoals hosted the Dixie Youth State Tournament as well as the Super NIT for the USSSA travel team league, which featured 120 teams in town over a weekend. The city will be hosting that particular tournament for the next five years.

One reason the city has been so successful hosting multiple tournaments is because of the aggressive way they bid on them as well as the fine facilities.

[T]he city estimated this year’s Dixie Youth State Tournament brought in between $2 and $3 million into the city.

And this, folks, is why cities of all sizes nationwide — even as poorer families are choking on school athletic cuts and pay-to-play for activities — are falling all over themselves to try to build new, spectacular youth sports facilities. It’s a way for small cities that can’t build a stadium to attract an NFL team to get a share of the sports booty out there for the taking. Natchez cares about Muscle Shoals — lusts after what it has — because voters in the city and surrounding county on Nov. 3 will vote in a nonbinding referendum whether it should build its own tax-supported field of economic dreams.

At least with youth sports facilities, unlike a 75,000-seat stadium, if you don’t attract high-level competition, at least the locals can use them, thus somewhat justifying their expense. Still, you can’t help but think that in a few years there are going to be stories about municipalities choking on the expenses.

If you want a preview of how that works, look at a lot of the big high school gyms built in Indiana when it was in its industrial glory, and when people cared enough about high school basketball to fill a 6,000- to 9,000-seat gym night after night. Now, even the residents of Anderson, Ind. — as a decimated former GM company town, it often has been Flint without Michael Moore — question why the school district continues to support the 9,000-seat Wigwam when it could have used the money to not close schools.

In Muscle Shoals, woe be to the city council if the youth tournaments stop coming, and the city ever floods.

Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2009 at 4:26 pm