Home » MRCK16: Region’s sports and recreation scene boosts economy, drives tourism

MRCK16: Region’s sports and recreation scene boosts economy, drives tourism

By Abby Laub

University of Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium recently underwent a $130 million renovation.
University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium recently underwent a $130 million renovation.

Some of Central Kentucky’s most notable athletes have four legs and hooves, but the region’s sporting scene has other standouts.

Unique in the United States, UK Athletics is paying $65 million toward the new Academic Science Building on campus.

At the state’s flagship school, University of Kentucky Wildcat Athletics ranked No. 26 in the national all-sports standings, the fifth consecutive year UK has been a Top-30 NCAA athletics departments. Two Wildcats claimed 2016 national championships.

UK opened a $45 million football training complex in 2016 next door to The New Commonwealth Stadium, which joined the ranks of top SEC football venues after a $130 million upgrade. A new baseball stadium and tennis facility are planned.

Nine former Wildcats competed in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with two bringing home gold medals.

UK athletes have eight straight semesters over a 3.0 grade-point average and annually give more than 4,000 hours of community service.

In Richmond at Eastern Kentucky University, the athletics department and EKU’s Division of Communications and Marketing collaborated to produce “Inside EKUSports” to give fans an inside look at EKU athletics and university news.

Baseball fans can take a visit to the Lexington Legends, a class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, whose park also hosts dozens of family friendly events throughout the year.

The picturesque Kentucky Horse Park just north of Lexington hosts more than 80 competitions each year, including the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Horse Park facilities host non-equestrian sporting events, such as cross-country and wresting.

“The Central Kentucky running, cycling and triathlon community is extremely active and generous for a city the size of Lexington,” said Bob Baney, founder of RaceRise. “We are poised to offer families healthy, energetic, charity events that serve a ‘win-win’ to boosting health and raising funds and awareness for worthy local charities. Our running community is running and giving 52 weeks a year.”

The race community also is a tourism driver, according to RunTheBluegrass Race Director Eric Marr, whose half marathon draws thousands of people to Central Kentucky every spring and brings in nearly $1 million in outside tourism dollars.

“Running tourism continues to grow at a record pace in Central Kentucky for two reasons: bourbon and Thoroughbreds,” Marr said. “Nowhere else in the world can you not only run through some of the most pristine lands ever seen but also partake in one of America’s most popular crafts, the art of bourbon distilling. Runners from literally every state in the country want to come visit us and take us in.”

Central Kentucky is chock full of other sporting and recreational activities for all ages, interests and abilities.