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U.S. Cellular fields set records in 2015

U.S. Cellular Community Park broke participation records and produced an economic impact of more than $11 million in 2015, according to an annual report released by Medford Parks and Recreation this week.

"We opened right at the start of the recession in 2008," said Rich Rosenthal, the parks and recreation assistant director. "Even though the recession held on longer in this part of the country than other parts of the country, when people made the decision how to spend their discretionary dollars, they sacrificed family vacations and made their children's tournaments their vacation."

Additional fields and lower gas prices paved the way for a 21-percent increase in local participation and a 3.7-percent increase in teams traveling to Medford for 45 tournaments and events. In 2014, Parks and Recreation estimated U.S. Cellular's impact was more than $10.2 million, following four years when its impact was between $8.8 million and $9.6 million. Those figures are calculated using a 1.85 multiplier on dollars circulating through the community. 

Nearly 1,600 teams competed on the 14 artificial-surface fields at the 132-acre park last year, including 776 from outside the Rogue Valley.

"I think the recent year's growth in participation reflects more in the increased local teams," Rosenthal said. "I saw a lot of teams and leagues craft their spring schedules around tournaments in Medford, because of the exposure they got playing teams both in the area and outside the area."

The usage and dollar figures do not include Harry & David Field, used by the Medford Rogues of the college-aged Great West League, Rosenthal said. U.S. Cellular's annual operational cost, including three full-time employees who maintain the park, is roughly $300,000.

Total spending for lodging and other items during competition days came in at just under $6 million. The five largest producers were: Amateur Softball Association's 12-year-old Western National Tournament, drawing 39 teams and generating spending of $489,500; Rogue Valley Timbers Memorial Challenge soccer tournament, drawing 68 teams and generating spending of $480,665; Valley South College Exposure Tournament, a fastpitch softball event drawing 56 teams and generating spending of $412,720; Yogurt Hut Memorial Day Tournament, a youth baseball competition drawing 51 teams and generating spending of $344,619; and the Medford Spring Break Classic, a fastpitch softball tournament drawing 27 teams and generating spending of $288,059.

Parks and Recreation estimated those five events produced a ripple effect of more than $2.8 million.

With completion of the park's $6 million Phase IV, opening three new diamonds last February, the park saw increases on several fronts. The number of games and matches hit the 5,000 mark in 2015, up from 4,400 in 2014. Those events were witnessed by 154,248 people, up from 137,721 in 2014. Total usage of the park was more than 217,000.

"We expanded our capacity for everything," he said. "But it didn't take long to reach capacity during our peak season, March through May."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Crater's Kailee Davis runs for a fly ball during the Western National Tournament at U.S. Cellular Community Park last July. The tournament attracted 39 teams for direct visitor spending of nearly $487,000. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch