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Sports fields hit economic home run

Medford’s U.S. Cellular Community Park saw its second-highest economic output in 2018 despite lingering summer smoke and a couple of cancellations.

“I think we were all a little bit surprised, but our big times of the year are spring and early summer and then again in the fall,” said Jesse Nyberg, recreation superintendent with Medford Parks, Recreation and Facilities. “When the smoke hit around mid-July ... most of our big events were done.”

Visiting teams’ expenses, tickets, lodging, food and drink combined for $11.5 million of spending in 2018. The new figures put the facility’s total estimated impact since it opened in May 2008 above $100 million.

“The numbers are great, but it’s just another way to show that we have a lot of pride in what the public has asked us to do,” Nyberg said. “And they’re asking us to run positive experiences for them.”

The park hosted its 2-millionth visitor in 2018, and the 916 teams that visited from outside the Rogue Valley set a new annual record.

The city uses an empirical data collection and analysis method to report the figures, which are published in an annual report available on the community park’s website.

It asks every visiting team and every group that rents fields for a tournament or game to respond to its questionnaire. Officials compile information on expenses from lodging and entertainment to transportation, shopping and entry fees.

Nyberg said that it takes persistence, but the city values output data on a park that cost $3.5 million to build.

“It’s very important to us,” he said. “We do everything in our power to get that information from everybody. We want to be transparent about what kind of impact we’re having.”

Smoke forced two cancellations in late August, he said. Both were high school soccer jamborees.

Cancellations are rare in part because the fields’ turf enables players to persist in rainy conditions. When 7 inches of snow fell on the fields one December, he said, an adult softball tournament had to be canceled. Staff couldn’t clear the fields in time.

“I have a lot of pride in the staff that we have, and they do a great job,” he said.

Even with the cancellations, park attendance was boosted by seven sold out youth baseball tournaments toward the beginning of the season. A record number of youth teams, 349 total, also ran the bases in 2018.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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