One of last year’s big tourism developments was OWA, a Baldwin County tourist destination aiming to open by Memorial Day with an initial $241 million investment to create a 14-acre theme park and shopping destination with dining and hotel accommodations. Owa, meaning “Big Water” in the Muscogee Creek language, recently took delivery of the AeroZoom, the first of 20 rides being assembled amid a flurry of construction activity.
Park officials at the fall unveiling for Owa said that one of its enticements was the adjacent Foley Sports Tourism complex, with 16 state-of-the-art sports fields that host soccer, lacrosse and archery tournaments, as well as a new 90, 000-square-foot event center for gymnastics and other indoor sports, slated to open this summer.
Somewhere along the way, modern tourism and youth sports became permanent teammates. A good example would be Birmingham’s Red Diamond Classic soccer tournament, the 2017 iteration of which will generate about $7 million for the Magic City.
The Classic draws 300 teams from more than 10 states to Birmingham. The teams bring some 20, 000 friends, family and fans with them to stay in hotels, chow down at restaurants and browse in shops. The 2017 tournament is expected to have an economic impact of $100 million for the Birmingham region.
The Red Diamond Classic boys’ tournament will be held March 4-5 with the girls competing March 11-12.
Text by Dave Helms