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November 10, 2010
By DEBBIE HALL AND PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Staff Writers

Last weekend's soccer tournament at the Smith River Sports Complex was deemed a success, in part because the community helped support the event.

Several sectors of the community were involved in the USA South Men's and Women's Soccer Championships, according to Jimmy McGarry, chairman of the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority (SVRFA), which oversees the complex.

"We partnered with local restaurants, hotels, the YMCA and other businesses to include them in the experience in offering this great event in our area," said Billy Russo, director of operations at the complex.

For instance, McGarry said a championship banquet was held Thursday at the Dutch Inn, "and we directed" teams and players to other restaurants, he added.

Complex and authority staff partnered with hotels to hold rooms for the eight teams participating in the two-day tournament, McGarry said.

"We had to have some rooms on hold to make sure we could house" the teams that had little advance notice they were in the tournament, he said. "We worked with hotels to secure guaranteed rooms for them."

The sports complex staff "constantly works with" the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.'s Tourism Office and other facets of the community, McGarry said, adding the tournament last weekend was no different.

The tourism office distributed 300 informational brochures to athletes taking part in the soccer tournaments.

"I'm not sure how much direct input they had on the tournament, but we work with them on coordinating" various efforts, he said, and added many local businesses also sponsored various aspects of the tournament.

The title sponsor, Coca-Cola, donated $3,000, and the Martinsville-Henry County EDC gave $1,000, according to Russo. Other sponsors, including Clarence's Steak & Seafood House, Bojangles, Applebee's, Elizabeth's Pizza and Chick-fil-A, also gave food, money or both for the tournament.

"Sponsorships offer businesses an opportunity to have their name on advertising and all promotional material," he said. Many businesses purchased ads in programs sold for the event.

Volunteers also play an integral part.

"We are fortunate to have a bunch of volunteers, but we need more," McGarry said.

According to Kimberly Payne, director of marketing at the sports complex, all of the roughly 20 volunteers were from the community.

They collected admission and sold programs, concessions and Smith River Sports Complex merchandise, McGarry said.

Eight of the volunteers served as "team hosts" and provided information or directions as needed, Payne said.

"We need volunteers to help with a youth tournament" this weekend, mainly to provide information and sell concessions, McGarry said. Although admission will not be collected, more teams are expected for that event.

Because the complex negotiates contracts for each tournament on things such as the cost of renting the fields, admissions, concessions and other fees, McGarry said revenue generated by each event varies.

"Some expenses we pay, some expenses they (tournament organizers) pay," and the same is true for profits made from tournaments, he said. "The contract spells out expenses and income" and the division of each.

McGarry and Russo said they do not yet know how much profit the complex made from the tournament.

Russo said the cost of the tournament was between $10,000 and $12,000. That included paying referees, hotel accommodations for the conference commissioners and sports information directors, and the improvements made to host the event.

"All indications are that we at least broke even, and may have even made a little money in the process," Russo said. "From a complex standpoint, we improved on ticket sales from the previous year, though we do not have the exact number yet."

"From the conferences' standpoint, we filled all of their needs and requests from the previous year, provided them with a covered press box and scorers' table with heaters," said Russo, who called the tournament a success. He added that the covered press box will remain at the complex and will be used for future events.

Mike Christie, the assistant commissioner for the USA South conference, agreed with Russo's assessment.

"Our experience here the last two years has been very positive," he said. "We've heard a lot of positive things from our coaches. Any improvements that we've asked for have been given."

Christie added that the decision to continue holding the tournaments at the complex is up to the presidents and athletic directors of the participating schools, but "there are nothing but positive things from our end."

Russo said he is "confident we've done what we needed to do to bring" the tournament back next year.

Payne also noted that the USA South holds all of its spring sports tournaments in one location, and she hopes that the conference could similarly have all of the fall sports tournaments in Martinsville. Other USA South fall sports include volleyball and cross-country.

Christie said it "is somewhat feasible" to have the volleyball tournament come to the area, but the conference's cross country meet traditionally happens a week earlier.

For soccer, the facility was ideal, Christie said.

"The playing between the lines is superb," Christie said. "We've heard it everywhere, from coaches to players to team administrators."

"We heard nothing but good things from their conference officials and their players and coaches about their entire experience in Martinsville and Henry County," Russo said.

"The most important thing for us is" there were more than 300 people in town for the tournament, "staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, and spending their money here," Russo said. "That economic impact for the community makes" the hard work associated with "the tournament all worth it."