The Bridge Sports Complex
Bringing the best in sports and recreation to the residents of West Virginia
Bridgeport is a small West Virginian city full of charm. With an enviable central location within two hours north of Charleston and two hours south of Pittsburgh, expect to feel welcomed by the many small-town perks and easy access to city amenities.
Among the facilities that the city offers is the impressive Bridge Sports Complex built roughly 12 years ago. The City of Bridgeport had allocated funding to construct a local hospital at the time and this required the purchase of vacant land. During the construction of the hospital, it was determined that the entire property was needed and a $9 million baseball complex was built for the community on the remaining lands.
Since then, the facilities have grown into an all-encompassing sports complex, meeting all community needs for exercise and health. And, while the city is small in population, roughly 9,000 people, the outlying areas also desired access to the facilities.
June 2021 marked the end of the most recent developments, originally called The Bridgeport Sports Complex, which initially represented the baseball field. However, after a few months, it was rebranded to The Bridge Sports Complex, which was the name of the 56,000 square foot indoor facility across the road. This impetus behind the naming was a desire to include the surrounding facilities and land within one uniform name.
The Bridge Sports Complex offers a genuinely immersive sporting experience. The facility offers four beautiful baseball fields, indoor and outdoor walking paths, a multipurpose field, a useful indoor turf field that can be configured for all sports, the United Hospital Center (UHC),Aquatics Center, a Clip n” Climb facility, Wesbanco Fieldhouse for basketball courts, a fully equipped fitness center and more.
The sporting complex is widely considered the number one sporting complex in West Virginia. In addition, the location of the complex makes accommodation easy for teams traveling to the destination, with a variety of hotels nearby, as well as easy access to the airport, local restaurants as well as a selection of shops.
“The complex has already hosted anywhere from 13 to 15 baseball events every summer since opening,” says Joe Shuttleworth, Director of Parks and Recreation for Bridgeport. “It didn’t take long before we could see the economic impact of the complex on our community.”
Recently, the state of West Virginia passed a law called the Home Rule Tax. This law allows companies to add to the state tax for additional revenue. The state taxes %, and an additional 1% is taxed on fees for recreation projects in the area and the complex.
The Bridge Sports Complex is managed by a sports facilities company, SFC (Sports Facilities Company). Droo Callahan, a contract worker from the company, is now also the General Manager. Embarking on his role on Labor Day 2020, nearly a full year ahead of the grand opening, Callahan’s role included overseeing the construction.
“We were aware that being in a semi-rural area in West Virginia, the center needed to be state of the art, designed for multi-purposes, as well as bring in revenue and create the economic impact that the baseball field has accomplished,” says Shuttleworth.
One of the Callahan team’s primary roles was to secure facilities sponsorshipsCitynet , the area’s leading provider of advanced network communications and technology solutions has taken out naming rights sponsorship for the indoor center, which is now known as the Citynet Center at the Bridge Sports Complex. Other sponsors include the local hospital, banks, and car dealerships, who all contribute to keeping the complex running efficiently.
Another aspect that Callahan’s team has excelled at is the development of local sports programs. Thereby tapping into revenue by providing excellent service and creating new opportunities in sports tourism.
These programs have evolved within the time that Callahan has been managing the complex. He elaborates, “Our programs at the complex are for 18-month to four-year-olds and older. Whether that’s swimming lessons, soccer training or Lil’ Trolls, we try to keep our activities current with motor development and social skills trends.”
Another program addition is Mountain State Storm, The Bridge’s club sports team, which currently includes swimming and volleyball. All these new programs are aimed at enticing the local communities to join the complex, drawing them in to engage with the facilities.
However, most importantly, it’s sports tourism events that drive people to The Bridge Sports Complex. “We’ve had about 22 events in our first year, and we’re going to be above 35 events for year two. And to bring in new sports tourists, we’re diversifying our events to include wrestling, cheer, and even mixed martial arts and dance, ” says Callahan.
To bring in this diverse crowd of sporting people, you need a multitude of facilities, and The Bridge Sports Complex delivers. The complex boasts an impressive array of amenities including the UHC Aquatics Center with a competition pool and warm up pool an indoor turf field that is 75 by 45 yards, a family entertainment center with Clip n’ Climb, a fitness center, a quarter-mile padded walking track, seating for 500 people and locker rooms as well as common areas for patrons to enjoy.
And all these assets live in the Citynet Center. The UHC Aquatic Center is perfect for swimming meets between high schools in the local area as well as serving as a venue for national events. The center also has state-of-the-art touchpad systems measuring down to a split second, which are valuable applications for professional events and participating universities.
Technology integration is key for The Bridge Sports Complex. They are currently working with a company called Pixellot, which will install a camera system developed for sports training analysis. When installed in the action areas, you can stream games, analyze footage, or snap a screenshot of athletes in action. This service will be free for the consumer to use.
While the center’s opening had some teething issues directly related to COVID-19, the local community was, and still is, excited about the new center. The Bridge Sports Complex sold over $400,000 worth of memberships before opening its doors.
Attendance numbers have steadily risen as the pandemic subsided. And with the lessening of restrictions, programs for seniors have been implemented, like Silver Sneakers andRenew Active, which are insurance-based programs allowing covered individuals free access to the facility.
“Since people have been able to go to the center, we’ve heard stories of individuals losing over 100 pounds, moving on to fitness classes, water aerobics, yoga, and all the other offerings. This allows us to assist with the health of the general community,” says Shuttleworth.
Working with the local high school, the center offers facilities for their swimming team. And local trade services use the outdoor facilities for more significant events and tournaments.
The Bridge Sports Complex currently employs 35 full-time people, with 80 to 120 part-time employees to assist during peak seasons. Also at the center is the Game Day Café.
Bucking the trend of just letting event organizers handle their marketing promotion, Callahan wants The Bridge Sports Complex to assist with advertising the venue.
The Bridge Sports Complex also wants to create a recycling program and become a role model for the local community. The team has been scouting sites for solar installation to assist with energy bills, as the power is provided by rural co-op systems that offer their product at a premium.
However, with the complex being reasonably new, all light fittings are LED, and pool filters are provided by Neptune Benson, which are energy efficient. In the future, The Bridge Sports Complex would like to add more green developments when the capital becomes available.
The lead design firm for the center was Omni and Associates, who led all the architecture expertise. They outsourced assistance from a specialist firm called BRS, which specializes in building sports and recreation centers.
SFC has assisted with advising on certain additions to the center through their sister companies, Sports Facility Development and Sports Facility Management, and Sports Facility Advising.
SFC also advised about new sporting systems in the center, like the All Porter System, which allows coaches and staff to adjust the heights of baskets, nets, and so much more from an APP-enabled phone.
In the next three-to-five years, The Bridge Sports Complex is looking to take advantage of the state Home Rule Tax, setting aside $5 million in capital for new projects. Also, the property has an additional 80 acres of land that still need to be developed. But overall, the complex is looking to create more revenue facilities, drive more sports tourism to the city, and be able to pay off development debts faster.
“We’re looking at developing anything that appeals to the local population, from more turf fields to family entertainment areas, and maybe more parks and sports like Disc Golf,” says Callahan.
Shuttleworth believes that other cities in West Virginia will look at the successes of The Bridge Sports Complex and copy their plan. This means that the team still wants to carry on developing more ideas.
Shuttleworth concludes, “We want our facility to be cutting edge and drive sports tourism to our city. We were aiming to have 1,200 members signed up to the center by this time, and we’re currently sitting at 4,700. So far, we’re taking advantage of our position as the best sports complex in West Virginia.”
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AT A GLANCE
Bridge Sports Complex
What: Sports and recreational complex with a wide variety of amenities
Where: West Virginia