by Jim Smilie
Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey W. Hall officially re-opened the Johnny Downs Sports Complex allowing its multimillion dollar annual economic impact to resume after a lengthy closure to repair tornado damage.
In December of 2019, an EF3 tornado destroyed the complex, which includes eight baseball/softball fields as
well as more than 15 soccer fields. The soccer fields, which received the least amount of damage, reopened in
2020. Four fields were repaired in time to host the Dixie Girls Softball World Series in July 2021 and now all
eight fields have been repaired and upgraded. Tournament play will resume this weekend and baseball and
softball league play will resume this spring.
Dr. Randall Dupont, Dean of the College of Business at Louisiana State University of Alexandria, noted the
baseball and softball tournaments held at Johnny Downs bring millions of dollars into the community each
year. “Facilities like Johnny Downs are investments – great investments – in economic development,” he said.
“Basically, my study shows that we have created $12.3 million in sales revenue and we have been able to
capture here for the area in the past and the next two years $9.8 million.”
In addition to repairing the tornado damage, City officials included a number of upgrades to the facility.
Improvements to the park include energy-efficient LED lighting, bullpens at each field, expanded batting cages
and artificial turf on the infields. Artificial turf drains much faster, reducing rain delays and rainouts and
decreases maintenance for the city.
Hall said the investment in the Johnny Downs Sports Complex is expected to provide significant benefits to the
local community both in terms of economic benefit as well as youth activity. “Sports venues like the Johnny
Downs Sports Complex bring people and communities together,” Hall said. “That’s why we have worked so
hard to get this facility back in operation as quickly as we could. And it is why we are making improvements at
others sites, including Cheatham Park, as well. We have already made improvements to the grandstands at
Cheatham Park and we will be installing artificial turf their later this year. Our overall goal is to ensure that we
have top-notch facilities available to residents throughout the community.”
Based on currently-scheduled tournaments in 2022 and 2023, each of which includes a Dixie Softball World
Series that will bring in teams from 11 states across the South, Dupont projects more than $7 million will be
spent locally in Alexandria, of which 80 percent – more than $5 million, will remain in the community. Johnny
Downs was originally built in 2005.