Foley, Ala. — A quartet of major soccer tournaments hosted at the new Foley Sports Tourism Complex (FSTC) in November looks to have have pulled record visitor impact for the region. “Our preliminary counts look close to 12,000 total visitors generated from these November events,” said Sports Tourism Director Don Staley. “This solidifies what we set out to accomplish almost three years ago . . . first class facilities, southern hospitality, a great experience for the players, coaches and fans . . . when the City of Foley got into Sports Tourism. November had historically been a sleepy tourism month here, after the close of the summer beach season and the approach of the holidays. So the impact of this month’s events are gratifying.”
The 16-field Foley mega complex opened to play last May.
The November soccer frenzy opened with the NCAA’s SunBelt Conference Women’s Championship Nov. 2-6. The University of South Alabama Jaguars defended their title to repeat as conference Champions. Other tournament teams representing the SunBelt were from Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Troy University, Little Rock, Arkansas State, UL Monroe and UL Lafayette.
That same weekend opened preliminary Division 2 play in the Alabama Soccer Association’s State Cup tournament series for youth soccer. Division 1 and 2 championship rounds continued at FSTC the following weekend. The age group winners (U14-U19) of the Alabama Cup now advance to the national rounds in the U.S. Youth Soccer championships. The first-time ASA event in Foley brought in 164 youth teams from across the state of Alabama.
Nov. 17-20 brought the NIRSA National Soccer Championships to the FSTC turf. A tournament field of 96 Men’s and Women’s teams from colleges across the country accounted for about 2,000 out of town competitors — along with additional family and fans. NIRSA is the national sanctioning organization for collegiate club soccer. Championship Division winners for 2016 were Virginia (Men’s) and UC Santa Clara (Women’s).
Among those in town supporting his daughter at the NIRSA tournament was Dean McCord, an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina. “We have traveled all over the country attending soccer events,” said McCord. “We’ve been to Disney and Phoenix and many places in between. (FSTC) and your staff, the multiple volunteers, and the entire town of Foley are to be applauded, as I have never had such an enjoyable soccer experience.
“It’s unusual to see this type of foresight, but the people of Foley had it when they decided to build this complex, with all the appropriate infrastructure. And to see what’s still in store? Amazing. Thank you to all involved in a most successful event and facility. You and the people of Foley should be very proud.”
In addition to the November soccer action on the FSTC fields, construction hit full stride on the new Foley Event Center. Slated to open late spring/early summer 2017, the nearly 100,000 square foot facility will expand the Foley sports tourism reach to include basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, cheerleading, expositions and trade shows.
The event center and entire sports tourism complex adjoin the new OWA™ entertainment and amusement destination under development from the Poarch Creek Indians. On Nov. 2 that name was announced, along with a preview of the development concept and opening plans for summer 2017.
You can find more information here at their website: VisitOWA.com