Cover Story: Concord game changer?

CONCORD, NC (WBTV) - Concord city leaders are hoping children become the economic solution to revitalizing its downtown.

Where there are kids there are usually parents and Concord is hoping those parents have money to spend.

In a time when many downtowns are suffering Concord went outside the box in an effort to get people to come to its downtown.

Leaders say it's going to be a game changer for their city.

What does volleyball have to do with revitalization?  More than you think.

Late Thursday afternoon Concord City Council met in special session to sign off on a unique project the mayor said he thought could never come together.

"The chances of that investment coming to that site were about as much as the chances of a meteor hitting me in the head this afternoon.. that is amazing that this is happening," said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett.

For years it stood as a blighted spot in the heart of downtown, contaminated with chemicals it was the city's old public works site.

Years ago with federal help the city began cleaning up the brownfield site.

Thursday it announced it's selling the property to a company called Carolina Courts.

"It's a community-based company," said Ron Esser, president of Carolina Courts.  "We're going to serve the people in the area in addition to that it'll be a destination business for Concord."

What is Carolina Courts?  They have one venue already in the area - in a business park in Indian Trail near Matthews.

Inside it's a 45,000 square foot complex with basketball and volleyball courts.  A place for youth sports, training and tournaments.

"We run everything through here.."

Matt Jones, general manager of the Indian Trail facility, says the tournaments attract families from all over the country.

"They'll fly in for these national championships," Jones said.  "It's unbelievable.. the amount of travel and time and money spent to come and compete for to be the national champion."

Which is why Concord is so excited about them building a similar complex in the heart of downtown.

City leaders envision thousands coming town for youth sports tournaments, parking the car and taking in everything in downtown.

And spending money at places like Cabarrus Creamery.

"Concord is just a very sports oriented town," said Andrea Runyan of the famous ice cream shop.  "So everybody would love it and it would definitely bring in a lot of new people. It would give us more business also."

Concord figures this could be the biggest revenue generator the historic downtown district has ever seen.

Even in a recession, youth sports are thriving.

"The growth of it has been so fun to see and the fact that we're opening this second facility it allowing us to do that has truly been a blessing. So we're excited.. we're really excited," said Jones.

Construction is set to being later this year.  The complex is expected to open next summer.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.