Mason (Left) and Broome (Right) shake hands while Robin Phillips (Softball Director) Looks On.
It is an established fact that traveling youth sports leagues, such as AAU and USSSA, can generate millions of dollars in impact for any region. One such league locally is Top Gun Sports, led by Donnie Broome and headquartered here in Cabarrus County. In 2015, Top Gun boasted a total 8,320 teams which played in their tournaments, generating a total of more than $47 million dollars in estimated economic impact, according to numbers compiled by the organization.
Last week, Broome announced a merge with Crystal Carolina Sports, a competitor of Top Gun for years that hosts tournaments primarily in western NC. Crystal Carolina brings another estimated additional 4,000 teams under Top Gun's umbrella and could mean a potential cash cow to any region willing to build large enough facilities to host tournaments Top Gun currently hosts tournaments in NC, SC, VA, WV, GA and TN, with plans to expand into Florida. Now, with the Crystal Carolina merger, Broome is more convinced than ever that his tournaments mean big money. "We're excited," he told CM. "With the relationships Don (Mason, Director, Crystal Carolina Sports) has built with teams - this may be the start of building a national brand." Broome went on to say that he has already received calls from other leagues about a possible merge. For his part, Mason says the perk packages and paid team berths to national tournaments that Top Gun offers made a merge with Top gun a "no-brainer" and he is equally excited about what the long-term union means, both for his organization and youth baseball in the region.
Tournaments take place almost every weekend between February and November during the year. Of those teams, there are an average of 15 players, plus coaches and parents that travel with the team. With anywhere from 4 to 70 or more teams participating in any given tournament, it's easy to see how the economic impact can add up fast - between "heads in beds" numbers, as well as retail and food purchases locally.
Broome said there have been proposals for Cabarrus County to build a large baseball/softball field complex in recent years, which would ensure that the County could keep more of those economic impact dollars. However, he also said nothing has moved past the conceptual stages as of yet. As a result, he has been forced to move many of his tournaments outside Cabarrus County into neighboring counties and even to Myrtle Beach, SC, because there simply aren't enough fields locally. According to Top Gun's figures, of the $47 million dollars of economic impact that Top Gun generated in 2015, Cabarrus County saw less than $7 million.
Broome concluded that, as a result of the merge with Crystal Carolina, he expects his total economic impact numbers to increase in 2016 by 33% percent. If that is indeed the case, it stands to reason that the first county to provide adequate facilities to host the larger tournaments could hit a homerun. The questions is, will Cabarrus County step up to the plate?