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December 10, 2020 County tourism looks to match $3M grant to build sports multi-use complex

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CLAY COUNTY – The Tourism Development Council is looking to match a $3 million grant for a new multipurpose sport complex.

The TDC met last week to discuss the grant and what a sports complex would look like in the county. The grant is quite open as far as grants go, as it only requires the construction of a multipurpose sports complex. What that complex looks like as far as fields, seating, amenities and more is up to the TDC and the county.

“The county was blessed to receive a grant from the State of Florida for a multipurpose sports complex so the county will match the $3 million grant that the state has offered us,” Tourism director Kimberly Morgan said during the Dec. 2 meeting. “We are beginning to work on that. We have a couple of different sites in mind that we’re exploring, but the grant is specific to say it’s for a multipurpose sports complex so that opens the doors for us to be creative and do some new great things.”

Morgan said this is a big get for Clay County because there isn’t really a multipurpose sports complex in Northeast Florida. She said there are complexes with either a bunch of soccer fields or a couple of baseball fields, but not both. She and the TDC imagine the sports complex as a recreational park that combines multiple types of fields with seating, bathroom and other amenities.

“We’re exploring a lot of things,” TDC chair Mike Cella said. “Most notably, a location: there’s one in Green Cove Springs we’re looking at ... and one in Middleburg. I look at it as a tourism development and certainly during the week, people from all over can use these facilities. This could include a walking trail, a dog park...a parking lot, bathrooms and everything else you’d expect.”

Morgan said this complex is at the very beginning stages and will be a years-in-the-making project.

In other business, bed tax collections are expected to decline in October and November. The TDC receives bed tax collection numbers, which are a good sign of tourist visitors staying in county hotels, with a bit of a delay.

The TDC won’t discuss the current month’s collections until their meeting in January. The TDC learned its bed tax collections were strong in September, but Morgan explained that there was a definitive drop beginning on Oct. 30. She expects that drop to continue, or at least remain, through March before collections pick up again in April.

The county should see some jumps in bed tax collections next year as more sports events make their way to Clay County by way of Airstream Ventures, a sports event company the county partnered with this year.

The next event residents can look forward to is the Florida Bicycle Racing Association Cyclocross state bicycle race coming to Johnny Van Zant Park on Jan. 10. The Sunshine State Games, which features events like canoe races and ultimate frisbee, will arrive later that year in June. The other events on the Airstream Ventures docket includes U.S. Cycling races in June 2021 and in 2022, American Cornhole League events in 2021 and 2022, Australian Rules Football Regionals in 2021, 2022 and 2023, youth wrestling in November 2021 and paddleboard racing for the next three years.

Article written by Wesley LeBlanc

Writer for Clay Today