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Lineup Growing At Oxford's Choccolocco Park, An Economic Driver For Community

Lineup Growing At Oxford's Choccolocco Park, An Economic Driver For Community

126 collegiate and high school softball and baseball teams will flock to Oxford's Choccolocco Park in May. The City of Oxford also recently secured two more contracts for the park, growing its lineup.

The Ohio Valley Conference softball will play in a tournament at the park in May after renewing its contract with the city. Other tournaments taking place in May include:

  • Gulf South Conference baseball and softball tournaments
  • Alabama Community College Conference baseball tournament
  • Alabama High School Atheltic Association baseball and softball tournaments
  • National Junior College Atheltic Association softball tournament

Choccolocco Park is also now the home of a professional women's fastpitch team, the Smash it Sports Vipers, after a five-year deal was signed. The Vipers will start to play at the park in June.

The activity at the park has become an economic driver for the community.

"When there are four and five-hour breaks between games, they aren't staying here. They are leaving to go find other things to do," said Lorie Denton, the spokesperson for the City of Oxford.

Businesses are already making preparations for the influx of people in May. Based on ticket sales and data from license plate readers last May more than 80,000 people are expected to come to the area throughout the month because of the tournaments.

"We are making sure we are staffed up both in our kitchen as well as in our front house and that we are just welcoming and accommodating to, especially the baseball teams. We know they are larger parties and that a lot of times they are time-sensitive," said Anais Lis-Simmons, the managing partner at Texas Roadhouse in Oxford.

Lis-Simmons said her business opens early for teams with reservations when they are in town. Texas Roadhouse also provides free meals to coaches, trainers, and bus drivers.

The continued growth of the lineup at Choccolocco Park is a positive for businesses.

"It's a huge community partnership of revenue," said Lis-Simmons. "We are excited to be a part of a community that is committed to growing and welcoming in so many people not only from local surrounding towns but also taking on events such as baseball and other things in the community."

Development outside of the park is ongoing."We've got bridge construction going on right outside the park. That bridge is going to be four lanes and it will be completed in June. We will then bid out the road project, in June or July, construction to start in September for Leon Smith Parkway to be widened to five lanes all the way down to Friendship Road. We have signed contracts for development deals across the street from Choccolocco Park with hotels and retail," said Denton. "We meet with the developers who own the land around here and they have so many parties that are ready to start construction on bringing a lot of new retail and housing here. That is the direction the development is going in right outside the park. That's no coincidence."

She added the city has recently landed some businesses they typically wouldn't and linked it directly to the traffic Choccolocco Park brings in.

"It makes it easier for them to make up their mind if they want to locate here. We announced Crumbl Cookies a couple of months ago. That's what you would consider more of a tier-one business. We've got them in Birmingham. We've got them in Atlanta. That was a big boost for the City of Oxford because that's not a tier store that we'd typically land. They explained when they saw the data and the numbers of the people who are by chance shopping at The Exchange because they are here at Choccolocco Park, they said it was a no-brainer for them to choose that," said Denton. "When we have 80,000 people come to Choccolocco Park that are typically not here in our city, they stay in our hotels. They eat in our restaurants. They shop in our stores. They buy gas at our gas stations. The tax revenue that is generated there has a very large indirect and direct economic impact. For example, the indirect economic impact is the number of employees we are able to hire on here for the month of May and continuing through the summer. Those are things that are huge for the vitality and future growth of the City of Oxford."

Denton explained the city is constantly consulting with its engineers to ensure the infrastructure is in place for new development.

The park itself is growing too. Additional seating will be added to the signature softball field to bring the capacity up to 1,500 this year. New locker rooms connected to the dugouts were also built. The modifications at the signature softball field were made to secure the contract with the Vipers.

"We are looking every year. What can we add to increase capacity? What can do to make our park the number one priority for everyone that wants to play anywhere to come here," said Denton.

There are several other tournaments at the park throughout the summer, including two weeks of United States Speciality Sports Association baseball which is set to bring in 300 teams.

The city is working with Alabama Power on an official economic impact study for Choccolocco Park. Data from that study could be available by the end of this summer.

The 300-acre park also has facilities for track and field, cross country, and soccer amenities, as well as walking and biking trails and playgrounds.

by Erin Wise

April 17th 2023