An effort to draw more youth baseball tournaments to Jefferson County is moving forward with the Jefferson County Board of Tourism approving an appropriation of $6,000 at its meeting Monday.

In working toward a marketing focus, it’s an effort that board member Trevor Crafton said provides a starting place, particularly since he and board member Curtis Chatham think that sports and recreation provide the best opportunity to bring more tourism dollars into the county.

To move the youth baseball effort forward, the board will utilize Madison native Dan Galvin, owner of Content-1, a marketing digital firm. Galvin is also currently partnering with Michael Fortunato in developing a collaborative marketing plan for the county.

Chatham expressed his initial interest of serving on JCBT was to develop Jefferson County as a sports destination, noting early on he had expressed, “We need some kind of drag racing in the county. We have too many people going out of the county” for that. He said, “We have done a good job getting our return (from tourism), but we need to do something new or different” because if the county continues just with the existing activities “I don’t know if we can keep that pace up.”

“Everyone has an interest,” Crafton said. “Everyone is passionate about something. We would really like to do a hot dog eating contest or a rodeo or drag racing or a yo-yo competition, or whatever it is, and all those things I would love. We would love to be able to say, yes, do it all. But in this scenario you’ve got to pick the lowest hanging fruit, and you can debate what’s the lowest hanging fruit.”

Crafton said, in his opinion and experience, he sees youth baseball tournaments as “what can generate the most capital in a short amount of time.” He said others may feel differently, but he thinks a focus on youth baseball provides a beginning point.

“You start out here then you continue to branch out,” he noted. “You could sit and debate for 12 months and accomplish nothing or you can just do something because we are all educated, creative people, we can roll with something as long as something begins.”

Chatham noted that JCBT doesn’t own the facilities in the county, so a process needs to be developed to work with those who do. “We need to establish an inventory of what we have, then we can go to market” and begin developing events. In addition to the marketing aspects, Crafton requested Galvin work toward gathering an inventory of facilities, and then communicate with the managers of those facilities. “That’s valuable information for us to have,” he said.

Crafton said he and Chatham both know of the possible revenue that can be generated from their experience as parents traveling to youth baseball events at venues in other communities. “I can tell you what he and I spend. We are just two families and each team has 10 to 12 kids, and they’ve got their grandparents.”

Crafton said families are spending hundreds of dollars to play and all of that money is going into other communities.

“That’s why I push for youth baseball to initiate that because we do have the facilities,” said Crafton, listing numerous ballfields throughout Jefferson County.

Board president David Bramer said he agrees with the value of pursuing sports and recreation to drive tourism dollars to Jefferson County. “You’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it. It just needs to get organized.”

“We have some of the best facilities around, and we’re in such a pocket between Lexington, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, Evansville” that teams can be drawn from all of those areas, Chatham said. “We have a niche that once we get organized we’re going to capitalize on that.”

In other business, the JCBT:

• Approved a budget for 2022 that will be submitted to County Council, something new for JCBT whose revenue is generated from the innkeepers tax. However, JCBT asked the County Council to approve an ordinance last month in an effort to provide oversight in how the innkeepers fund is spent, thus beginning the process in which JCBT will now annually submit its budget to County Council.

The budget that was submitted totaled $410,000 with $170,000 going toward Visit Madison Inc. operations, $110,700 for VMI marketing, $120,000 for community grants, and $9,300 as a rainy day fund. Chatham noted there was no increase for VMI, whose contract runs through the end of March 2022. However, he said an increase might be considered before the third quarter of next year, depending on innkeepers tax revenue.

• Hannah Shaffer, VMI marketing specialist, provided the monthly update from VMI, noting the 18 to 24 website demographic had increased by more than 50%. “We’re trying to figure out how do we continue to grow this because we think that’s a really exciting statistic,” she said. She said they are also working toward revamping the VMI website. “We’ve got some mockups of web designs that are looking really awesome,” she said.

• Chatham reported that Canaan Fall Festival has expressed interest in expanding that event. “They are wanting to make the festival much bigger,” he said, possibly adding music and rides. Chatham said the Canaan Restoration Council, organizer of the festival, has requested an application for marketing and another one for infrastructure, although he doesn’t know what might be requested. “That’s an important festival for everybody out that way,” he said.

• Board member Wendy Lawson asked about getting a report from Madison Regatta Inc. following the $50,000 grant that JCBT provided for this year’s event. “I think it’s important for them come back and let us know” how the event went and what can be done better, she said.