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The Mexican national women's team faced Duke last April at Decatur's Jack Allen Recreation Complex.  The Mexican team returns to Decatur April 26 in a match against Argentina. The  game is part of a weeklong series across Alabama called Futbol Internacional 2007.
Daily file photo by John Godbey
The Mexican national women's team faced Duke last April at Decatur's Jack Allen Recreation Complex. The Mexican team returns to Decatur April 26 in a match against Argentina. The game is part of a weeklong series across Alabama called Futbol Internacional 2007.

City scores with soccer events
Governor's Cup could be Decatur's biggest tourism draw

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Decatur tourism and recreation officials landed a series of soccer tournaments that could prove the most lucrative special event in the city's history.

The Governor's Cup will bring 120 or more teams from across the state for a three-day tournament in November and return again the next two years. That same weekend, the Jack Allen Recreation Complex will host the Division 1 Final Four soccer tournament for five boys and girls age groups, expanding the guests to as many as 160 teams.

Calculate 16 players and coaches per team and an average 1.5 family members traveling with them, and the result could be 6,400 people visiting Decatur. Some matches could end up at Point Mallard.

The Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Decatur Parks and Recreation have anticipated the announcement since June when the city hosted the President's Cup.

The Alabama Soccer Association, which organizes both the Governor's and President's Cup tourneys, was impressed with the new soccer facility, which features 30 acres of lighted, laser-graded fields. But landing the tournaments took more than the facility, which some visiting teams called the best in the Southeast.

"(The complex) is a huge factor, but also the infrastructure is there to support the events," said Scott Spencer, ASA director.

"Every time we've been there, the parks and rec group has been able to get the volunteer base it needed to staff it appropriately," he said. "We want to play on great fields, but if it was a huge headache to play there, then we wouldn't be there, even though you have nice fields."

The Governor's Cup has the potential to fill 3,600 hotel room nights, the most in Decatur history, and have an economic impact of $1.9 million. The visitors bureau paid $7,500 to host the Governors and Division 1 tournaments.

The largest tourism special event in Decatur to date appears to be the 2002 Racking Horse World Celebration, which filled 2,672 room nights, according to visitor bureau records.

The President's Cup last June brought 104 teams for three days to Decatur and its co-host Huntsville. The shared event filled 1,057 room nights in Decatur.

The tournament occurs each November, and Stuart Lamp, visitors bureau special events director, said that's ideal for Decatur because hotels here typically have little business that time of year.

Lynn Bertovic, office manager for ASA, said many of the younger teams will have much smaller rosters than the average size of 16 to 18 players and coaches, but they bring more family members.

Recreational teams generally travel with entire families, whereas the competitive teams that played in the President's Cup may bring only some of the parents, she said.

"This will be the only tournament many of these kids play in," Bertovic added.

Most of the teams will come from Birmingham and south of Birmingham, she said, so they will need hotel rooms.

Last year, Birmingham was host to 160 teams for the Governor's Cup, which filled all 400 hotel rooms she reserved for the players and families.

Decatur and Morgan County's 26 hotels can offer 1,745 rooms. That number shrinks as most parents likely will stay only in well-known chain hotels.

The visitors bureau expects some spillover into Madison hotels.

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