No one really knew how big of a deal Golden Eagle would turn out to be. It’s a pretty big deal.
“It’s crazy. We book out tournaments every weekend. This year it was from February 4th through November 17th. We have a tournament scheduled out there every weekend,” said City of Sparks recreation supervisor Tony Pehle. “We had big expectations. Our area has always been successful in softball, but it’s made it even more so now. We get teams from Alaska, Texas, Florida.”
It’s not only that the facility is booked solid nearly year-round, but the facility receives some of the highest praise from some pretty big names.
“I’m friends with Brett Helmer, who has been on the men’s (slow pitch softball) national team since it’s inception. He has a bat that’s named after him,” Pehle said. “He’s played out here a few times, and he’s the first one to say that we have the nicest complex he’s ever played at. He said ‘And I’ve played everywhere you can think of, Canada, Mexico. There’s nowhere that’s nicer than the complex you guys have.’”
It’s not just softball and youth baseball that utilizes the fields. Football, soccer and even lacrosse teams will rent out the utility fields.
Pehle has also been able to fill it up in the winter months with teams renting it for practices for soccer, football and softball, bringing in additional income that wasn’t available before Golden Eagle was built due to closing down the other fields in the winter.
The additional income helps the Sparks Parks and Recreation Department stay afloat and balance the budget.
“As far as what it’s brought into the city, it will take years and years to make up the actual cost into the city budget, but the economic impact on the community has probably paid for itself three or four times,” Pehle said. “One example is we had Senior Softball-USA here last week for nine days and 200 teams. That event alone brings in approximately $7.5 million of economic impact to our community.”
Pehle said he hasn’t seen the down economy affect the number of teams or tournaments using the complex. In fact, it’s just the opposite, while participation has gone down in some of the local programs.
The City of Sparks has lucked out financially as well.
With all the wear and tear on the fields, the turf has been replaced on a few of the adult softball fields and will be replaced on the youth fields. But that was not due to a maintenance issue. FieldTurf, the company who installed all the turf, offered to replace it with a higher-quality turf at no cost. FieldTurf uses pictures of Golden Eagle in its international advertising campaigns, so it was important that Golden Eagle has the best product available in order to impress other potential clients.
Since it opened over four years ago, the biggest addition has been Red’s Golden Eagle Grill, which is not your run-of-the-mill concession stand. It’s a full sports bar and restaurant where people can enjoy a variety of foods instead of having to leave the park or bring their own food. That’s been a big attraction for tournament organizers.
Plus, the location of the park in the Reno-Sparks area has been a big draw also.
“There’s a lot to do in the area. People are trending to start turning their youth sports tournaments that they’re going to into family vacations,“ Pehle said. “They’ll come into town for a few days and make a vacation out of it, so it’s really helping our economy as far as the tournament side of it goes.”