Seymour Parks and Recreation receives $100K matching grant


When the Jackson County Visitor Center chose its first IMPACT grant last week, the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department’s vision for 2020 became crystal clear.

The visitor center selected the department as the recipient of the $100,000 matching grant, which will be spread across three projects.

The grant will help with the expansion of two new softball/baseball fields at the Freeman Field Recreational Complex, construction of two pickleball courts at Kasting Park and completion of Phase 3 of the Schurman-Grubb Memorial Skatepark at Shields Park.

Arann Banks, the visitor center’s executive director, said while multiple proposals were submitted for the grant, the parks department’s plan was the only one that met all of the criteria.

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“Since I started (at the visitor center), we’ve had a really good partnership with parks and rec. through the mutual understanding that that’s where the tourism basis is for the county right now,” Banks said.

“There is a lot of incredible tourism, but the way tourism is measured is heads in beds: People staying in hotels,” she said. “The two biggest things that keep people in hotels are business travel and parks and rec. through the baseball and softball tournaments.”

The grant was created last year by Banks to help fund large-scale projects.

“This grant came from the fact that tourism is 100% funded from the innkeeper’s tax,” Banks said. “We have been very, very fortunate over the past few years that we’ve done very well with the innkeeper’s tax.”

The tax is assessed by adding 5 cents to every dollar spent on hotel stays lasting fewer than 30 days. The tax funds the visitor center.

Banks said the innkeeper’s tax brought in $513,859 in 2018, up from $472,721 in 2017.

“What happens is I submit a budget to the county for the year, and while I’m spending money on my budget, there’s still money coming in on the innkeeper’s tax,” she said. “At the end of all that, we’re actually bringing in more innkeeper’s tax than we’re spending. We also have a fund where that has been accumulating.”

The grant states Mayor Craig Luedeman has fully committed the appropriate funds for the matching portion of the grant, making the total amount $200,0000 and minimizing the impact on any one department.

More fields equal more dollars

Since 2015, Seymour Parks and Recreation has seen a major increase in youth baseball and softball tournament participation, which has led to increased tourism dollars for the county.

In 2015, nine tournaments were held here with 302 teams visiting. An estimated $1,556,508 was spent in tourism that year.

In 2018, there were 20 total tournaments with 401 teams, bringing in $2,066,754 in tourism.

This year’s numbers brought in an additional million dollars to local businesses.

For the 2019 season, there were 15 tournaments with a total of 510 teams (335 baseball, 175 softball) at Kasting and Freeman Field parks with an estimated $3,110,880 spent in tourism.

The parks hosted 10 OVSP USSSA Tournaments (baseball) and six KLEBER USSSA (softball) tournaments this year.

On average, baseball had 33 teams participate in tournaments per weekend, while softball had 29. The biggest softball tournament had 61 teams in it, while the largest baseball tournament featured 47 squads.

The income from tournaments was $18,000 for the parks department, compared to around $14,700 in 2018. The department changed its policy from renting fields to renting facilitates, leading to more revenue.

The $132,950 addition of two multipurpose softball/baseball fields with fencing, electrical, water and multipurpose sidewalks at the Freeman Field Recreational Complex will have an immediate impact.

Bob Tabeling, who was appointed parks and recreation department director by Luedeman in 2016, estimated the two additional fields could bring in more than 200 additional teams over the course of the summer, pushing the total team count to more than 700.

He said projections indicate each field would bring an additional $400,000 in revenue into the community, and he believes it’s a conservative number because of being able to schedule more tournaments with a higher participation number than the 34-team average for 2019.

“People say, ‘You’re giving a grant for baseball fields,’ but it’s not just that,” Banks said. “It’s a grant for them to be able to do what they do better so more people can come and enjoy themselves and enjoy the county. Instead of them coming here, playing ball and leaving, we want them to enjoy it here. We want them to say, ‘We went to Seymour for that tournament. It was a really cool place. Let’s go back there for a long weekend or stop there during our trip to Florida.'”

The goal is to have the fields done in the early spring in time for the 2020 tournament season.

Banks said Seymour could use another hotel with the amount of visitors it’s seeing, and the biggest need right now is entertainment for kids and families when they’re not at the fields.

“What we need to do better is entertain the kids and families better when they’re here,” Banks said. “Racin’ Mason Pizza and Fun Zone does a great job out there (at Shops at Seymour). I think they offer a great option. People are looking for something that’s indoors, causal and doesn’t expend a lot of energy, and they can still stay together as a team. A lot of times, they end up piling in a restaurant for way too long.”

Banks said hotels fill up as soon as the rooms are available, and it’s not just the tournaments packing them. She said events more than 60 miles away, like the Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby, will draw visitors to Seymour because of its central location off of U.S. 50 and Interstate 65.

“We have three hotels that are in a much higher price range. The ones that are more in the budget world are seeing impact this year. Their numbers are up,” she said. “There is a clear demand for a new hotel in the county. We have to get one. It’s actually kind of a critical point. The more we get these families and teams here, I have nowhere to put them.”

Joining the craze

One of the fastest-growing sports in America — pickleball — will have a bigger presence in Seymour.

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association’s 2016 Participant Report, there are more than 2.5 million pickleball players in the United States. In the past six years, the sport has seen a 650% increase in numbers, according to the USA Pickleball Association.

The plan is to have two courts, costing $27,100. Tabeling said the location of the courts could change, but the plan as of now is to put them in Kasting Park.

Kasting is the primary location for youth softball and baseball tournaments, so the parks department anticipates heavy use between walk-ups and the leagues and tournaments that will be created at the facility.

The courts will be completed in the early spring and will have local and professional specialized contractors create the courts.

There are many locals who travel to Columbus and Madison to play the sport and compete in leagues and tournaments. Tabeling said Program Director Jeff Campbell would be able to put together tournaments from March until late October once the courts are finished.

A local group has already organized a pickleball league, playing on makeshift courts at Seymour High School’s tennis courts and on the volleyball courts at Gaiser Park.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The paddle is smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a ping-pong paddle.

Serving starts on the right-hand side of the court, and it must be done underhanded and can’t be above the server’s navel.

The ball has to land in the opposite court and bounce before the player on the opposing team can hit it. That player’s return has to bounce, and then from that point, the ball can be hit out of the air or after a bounce.

The upper part of the court is called the kitchen. If the ball bounces in that area, a player can go there to hit it, but they can’t stay there.

The first team to score 11 points wins the match.

Skatepark to complete Phase 3

While the entire $80,000 bill to finish the skatepark won’t be met with the grant, a chunk of the project will be completed.

Parks and rec requested $40,000 with the balance being in-kind through the city contribution ($25,000) and individual fundraising efforts ($15,000).

The $40,000 will compete the third phase of the skatepark, which will include additional “air structures,” Tabeling said.

The Schurman-Grubb Memorial Skatepark has been in the works for more than two decades. The Seymour Skatepark Association started working on the park as far back as 1996.

The grant proposal by parks and rec said that while it’s not a traditional format of physical activity, communities across the country have continued to find benefit in the parks.

It stated the department has a letter of support with multiple signatures that convey the fact that these individuals see a positive community impact both mentally and physically.

It also stated parks and rec has attempted to request funding from the Tony Hawk Foundation, but because the project isn’t new and has two phases completed, it is not prioritized highly as a new skatepark.

The department said it is seeing individuals who used the skatepark in their teenage years now bringing their own children there.

The vision is to have the park finished so tournaments can be conducted in the future.

A local group has continued to work on raising the funds to complete the park.

Anyone wanting to donate to the Finish the Park Initiative may do so through the online GoFundMe page at Merchandise also may be purchased online at with all proceeds benefiting the park.

For information about the initiative, visit, or

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The Jackson County Visitor IMPACT grant will help pay for three projects this spring.

Two baseball/softball diamonds at Freeman Field Recreational Complex

Field construction (x2) $9,000

Fence (x2) $43,450

Miscellaneous items (benches, bases, plates) $6,000

Lights (x2) $30,000

Field cover (x2) $12,000

Scoreboard (x2) $5,000

Concrete sidewalk (8×5) $15,000

Waterline $4,000

Field 3 fence $8,500

Total: $132,950

Pickleball courts at Kasting Park

Pickeball court $8,500

Fencing $5,800

Court surface (surface, poles, nets) $8,000

Miscellaneous (benches, shade cover) $4,800

Total: $27,100

Skatepark Phase 3 

Total: $40,000

Entire project cost: $200,050

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The Seymour Parks and Recreation Department has seen growth in participating teams over the past five years.

Year;Tournaments;Teams;Tourism dollars







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