I have seen the future, and it is a 1,400-acre piece of property about 70 miles south of here on I-75 in Emerson, Ga. It's called LakePoint Sporting Community.
We ran a story on Lakepoint several days ago, and to recap quickly, it's billing itself as a "stay-and-play" destination for the serious-minded sports family. These folks are willing to forgo traditional family vacations to dedicate their free time to schlepping the young athlete in the family to another tournament in hopes that it will one day pay off for a college scholarship or even a professional career for the athlete.
For some, this is an expensive way to chase a dream, but it does pay off for many. But that's another topic.
When completed in 2016, LakePoint will have 28 hotels on-site, about 100 restaurants, three lakes for wakeboarding and skiing, a nine-hole golf course, a bowling alley, a movie theater, sand volleyball courts, dozens and dozens of baseball and softball fields and numerous multipurpose fields for soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and 7-on-7 football.
In other words, it is designed to separate you from your cash. It expects to generate $560 million in revenue each year. You don't have to be an athlete to visit and spend money. It will be worth watching to see what it does to places like Six Flags Over Georgia and the Tennessee Aquarium.
Which is why I bring it up. I spent a little time at Camp Jordan on Saturday at a lacrosse tournament. There is a lot of money in lacrosse. That place was packed from end to end with food trucks, sporting-goods vendors, photographers and families who had traveled here from all over the country.
These tournaments are hardly new, but the level of sophistication attached to running them has grown tremendously, and the level of commitment by the families who attend matches it. When my kids were playing baseball and soccer, we were a fairly typical family, committing to paying a thousand bucks or so to be on a team and another thousand to travel to four or five tournaments each year.
Today, the serious-minded family is spending anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, according to LakePoint CEO Earl Ehrhart. And they expect things like what LakePoint will be giving them. Chattanooga has worked hard to get some of these tournaments with new and improving athletic fields, but what LakePoint does is put everything in one place. You eat, wash uniforms, sleep and find things for brother and sister to do. It's the future.
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.