Recreation opportunities abound
By KALEY CONNER
When it comes to marketing all Hays has to offer, recreation opportunities are front and center.
From Hays Aquatic Park to Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex and the planned addition of bike lanes throughout the city, visitors increasingly are looking for opportunities to get outside and get active, said Jana Jordan, director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Our sports and outdoor recreation has become, really, a big thing," Jordan said.
The sports complex, which opened in fall 2011, is off to a solid start, Jordan said. In its first year, 16 tournaments were played at the facility, bringing together more than 3,000 participants.
The tournaments included baseball and softball tournaments for children and adults and a youth soccer tournament. All but one of the tournaments were home-grown, meaning they were first-time events organized by Hays Recreation Commission to draw athletes into Hays.
The events drew participants from throughout Kansas, as well as several teams from Nebraska, said Ben Moeckel, sports complex director.
"When they came to the complex, they just loved it," he said. "I think most of the people who played will come back this year."
HRC is planning to host the same tournaments this year, and already has added two more events to the 2013 schedule.
It has been a bit difficult to break into the competitive business of recruiting long-standing tournaments to Hays, Moeckel said, noting some state tournaments have a long history of going to certain communities. Those efforts are continuing and will ramp up even further in the complex's second year of business. Promotional cards highlighting the facility will be distributed at state high school tournaments hosted in Hays this spring.
"A lot of it is emails, phone calls -- you're constantly trying to get teams in," Moeckel said. "We expanded our contact list to over 140 teams this year. When you look at last year, we basically started with zero."
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Another upcoming amenity the city soon will begin promoting is the addition of bike lanes throughout Hays. The Hays City Commission is committed to funding 15 miles of designated street lanes to create a safe and easily accessible route for bicyclists.
"It was a longtime desire from the community," Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno said.
The city also has applied for state funding, which would be used to add another 11 miles of bike lanes. The second phase of the plan also calls for a paved trail near Big Creek that could be used for bicycling or hiking.
City officials intend to launch an extensive educational and marketing campaign to promote the bike system within the community, Briseno said.
The bike lanes likely will be enjoyed by many visitors, too, Jordan said.
"A lot of people travel with their bikes in the back of the car," she said. "We have a lot of people, when they stop in, they'll ask if there's a walking trail nearby they can access. I think the hike and bike trail will be a big plus for our community, and visitors as well."