In a bid to build on the momentum of sports-tourism activity happening at River City Sportsplex, Chesterfield officials have turned their attention to improvements at another recreation facility.
The county has teed up about $5 million to fund improvements to six existing softball fields at Harry G. Daniel Park on Ironbridge Road.
While the enhanced fields will be usable by county residents, the effort comes as a means to further bolster sports tourism revenue in the county, which has been largely spurred by the Sportsplex, a 115-acre county-owned venue on Genito Road that hosts youth sports tournaments.
The Daniel Park project is expected to be the first of other such athletics infrastructure projects spearheaded by the county’s first sports, visitation and entertainment director, J.C. Poma, who took the role earlier this year.
“It’s to replicate the success of River City (Sportsplex) elsewhere in the county, and I think the first place we’re doing it with (Poma) on board is Daniel Park,” Deputy County Administrator Matt Harris said.
The Daniel Park fields are near six other softball fields at Bird Athletic Complex. County officials hope the two sites will make the area a hub for youth baseball and fast-pitch softball tournaments. Daniel Park also features dedicated baseball fields which are not part of the improvement project.
The upgrades at Daniel Park, which are underway, consist of the conversion of one field into a championship field, new restrooms, parking lot improvements, new fencing, dugouts and resurfacing of the play areas.
The championship field will feature covered spectator seating and a press box and be used for noteworthy games and tournaments.
County officials said that to create a similar facility from the ground up would cost $50 million, and the move to rehab an existing facility is a cost-saving measure.
The fields are expected to reopen and start hosting events in early June 2024. Speaking late last month, Poma said the county had booked 22 tournaments to take place at Daniel Park once it opens.
In September, the Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $4.1 million in funds restricted to sports tourism uses toward the project. An initial $900,000 was already earmarked to improve the fields as part of the current FY24 budget for the parks department.
A private operator had leased and used the county-owned softball fields at Daniel Park for more than a decade. Chesterfield assumed control of the facilities in January 2023 to have a firmer hand in the future of the property and utilize it for sports tourism purposes.
Chesterfield held 83 sports tourism events that generated a $48 million economic impact in fiscal year 2023, according to a county news release. Of that total, $36 million was tied to events that took place at the Sportsplex.
The Sportsplex’s 12 fields are used for sports like soccer and field hockey, but it does not have softball fields. The county is also working on adding four more fields to River City.