U.S. Cellular Community Park pumped millions of dollars into the local economy last year by hosting a record number of tournaments and special events, according to an economic impact analysis released by the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.

U.S. Cellular Community Park pumped millions of dollars into the local economy last year by hosting a record number of tournaments and special events, according to an economic impact analysis released by the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.

The study shows that about $4.78 million in "hard dollars" was spent during the 46 tournaments and special events hosted by the park in 2011. About $3.8 million was generated by visiting teams. Multiplied by a "ripple effect" of 85 cents per dollar, the study estimated that the park generated more than $8.8 million in local sales in 2011.

"The park basically paid itself back in three and a half years," said Brian Sjothun, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. "It's an excellent investment."

The 12-field, 132-acre, $30 million facility has generated more than $28.2 million for local businesses since its grand opening in May of 2008, Sjothun said, adding that motels located in south Medford have especially benefited from the park.

"The facility is quite the draw for people who live out of town," Sjothun said, adding that teams have come from as far as Hawaii and Alaska to play in tournaments.

"They spend money. They fly into our airport, and rent cars, and fill up restaurants, and stay at hotels, and a whole bunch of stuff. This would not be possible without the facility," he added.

Part of the park's popularity stems from the synthetic grass that carpets the fields. The artificial turf allows the park to operate year-round without suffering from the long periods of downtime other parks experience when the weather turns nasty.

"We are the largest year-round adult softball program in the state because of the artificial turf," Sjothun said, adding that the park had to impose a ceiling on the number of softball teams allowed to enter.

The report also showed that in the four years the park has been open, it has generated or helped to preserve more than 300 jobs, including 104 in 2011. The department arrived at that figure by dividing the facility's total profits by $36,481, Medford's median income.

Three more fields are planned, including one full-size baseball field and two softball/baseball fields. Although the additions come with an estimated price tag of $5.3 million, Sjothun believes the new fields will pay for themselves in three to four years.

"Medford loves to play," he added. "Now we have quality facilities."

Reach reporting intern Nils Holst at 541-776-4368 or email holstn@sou.edu.