May 21, 2014 10:35:14 AM
This weekend, Columbus will host The President's Cup soccer tournament, a state-wide event that will attract 120 teams and close to 5,000 visitors.
The city of Columbus, backed by a $30,000 bid from the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, secured the tournament about 18 months ago.
Yet this weekend is something those connected with the complex have been looking forward to far longer than that.
From its conception more than four years ago, the entities behind the $5 million, 10-field complex spread over 70 acres at Burns Bottom touted the project as a means to attract tourists to Columbus.
Clearly, this weekend's tournament is evidence of the appeal of the complex. There are no hotel rooms available in Columbus and hotels in Starkville and West Point are filling up fast. Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the CCVB, said she anticipates "a $2 million weekend," for hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to visitors. She said the tournament represents the biggest sporting event in the city's history in terms of the number of people it will draw.
Hyperbole or not, it's clear that this weekend's tournament represents a significant boost for the local economy and provides an opportunity for the city to put its best foot forward in front of many who may never have previously visited "The Friendly City."
The Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority has spent months preparing for this event. Even so, no amount of planning will eliminate the inconveniences that are a natural part of staging a tournament of this scale. For reasons that should be obvious, officials did not build parking sufficient to accommodate 5,000 visitors when it planned the complex. That means parking will be spread out all over the downtown area. There is likely to be considerable congestion on our many roads during this holiday weekend, as well.
We urge everyone to exercise some patience when it comes to these sorts of inconveniences. All things considered, the benefits of hosting this tournament far outweigh the frustrations that naturally accompany it.
This is an opportunity for our city to shine. City and county officials have done their part. Now, it is up to the people of Columbus to greet all those visitors warmly and do what we can to ensure that their visit is a pleasant experience. It's the best kind of marketing there is.