Outlook positive for Manchester Meadows as soccer complex celebrates 1st anniversary

Families watch a soccer game at Manchester Meadows in July 2006 as another game is played on another field in the background.
Families watch a soccer game at Manchester Meadows in July 2006 as another game is played on another field in the background.

It's been a year since the city's soccer complex off Mount Gallant Road, Manchester Meadows, opened with much fanfare.

Five tournaments in the last year created an economic impact of $1.4 million, according to Mark Sexton, administrative and tourism supervisor for the city. Feedback from nearby businesses has been positive.

And to think, the 70 acres was once a swampy lagoon.

The $12.7 million complex with eight soccer fields, a playground area, a nature trail and a picnic area was dedicated a year ago this week.

In addition to the tournaments, the complex sponsors adult and youth soccer leagues in the fall and spring.

The economic impact included 725 hotel room nights occupied by 335 teams. Nearly 300 of the teams were from outside York County. Two tournaments alone generated $335,000 for lodging, food, gifts, entertainment and transportation, according to the city's tourism division.

Still, the complex has a long way to go before it compares to the hotel nights created by softball tournaments at the 20-year-old Cherry Park, which generates an annual average of $4 million.

The Wingate Inn on Galleria Boulevard saw some room nights from soccer tournaments but not as much as the more popular softball events, manager Bonnie Whisenant said.

When more soccer tournaments are hosted at the complex, Whisenant said, surrounding hotels should expect to fill up.

"We can't wait for the business to start coming in from Manchester like it has from Cherry Park," she said.

The Olive Garden sees more business during the day between games, according to manager Tom Davis, who said that about 200 to 250 more customers visit over one tournament weekend.

Moe's Southwest Grill sees an extra 20 to 25 customers every second or third hour, said manager Jesse Sanders.

"It's an all-day kind of busy," he said. "The games end at different times during the day, and they come in and out regularly."

Soccer has been growing in popularity and this year saw a 24 percent increase in youth membership, topping 800 players, according to Rhea Faris, regional parks and athletics supervisor. An adult soccer league was created this year, with about 90 members on five teams.

When the complex was being planned, the city just wanted to meet what was a "well-documented need" for fields, said Carey Smith, city manager.

In 2002, the city council approved three fields, a concession stand, rest rooms and a parking lot at an estimated cost of $3.4 million. But when the 2 percent hospitality tax was approved later that year, the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department was able to expand the plans.

"The concept changed from just building soccer fields for people's enjoyment to enhancing the sports tourism model that has been successful at Cherry Park," Smith said. "We hope to learn from the park's successes and failures and grow from that."

A Clemson University study estimated the soccer complex could bring in $2.4 million annually. Smith said that with the proximity to Interstate 77 and the advanced fields, he expects to meet the eight-game tournament goal this year.

In time, Sexton said they hope the park will host up to 12 tournaments annually, with projected earnings in the fifth year jumping to $2.7 million.

"The complex is obviously successful," Sexton said. "Together with the success of Cherry Park, Rock Hill has seen the impact that amateur sports can have on an area community."