The Galveston Economic Development Partnership’s sixth annual Economic Development Summit takes place today at Moody Gardens Convention Center, starting at 8 a.m.
Various panel discussions are in store, including one on sports tourism during the luncheon program, 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m., moderated by longtime island sports enthusiast and newly-elected Galveston Independent School District board member Johnny Smecca.
The sports tourism guest list features: Kelly De Shaun, Galveston Island Park Board; Jerald Temple, Galveston ISD athletics; Chuck McElroy, Retired Players Association — Major League Baseball; and Bob Ford, Bob Ford Productions.
Also on hand will be Josephine “Beep” Sullivan, executive director of the Christina Grillo Sullivan Foundation.
Along with explaining what the foundation has to offer, Sullivan will introduce a proposed 18-court tennis center to serve as home of the United States Tennis Association adaptive tennis program, a first of its kind in this neck of the woods.
The four-acre facility will be comprised of 12 outdoor courts and six additional indoor courts, as well as locker rooms, a pro shop, multi-use space and parking.
The GEPD currently is working with the foundation to find a suitable site selection, possibly near Scholes International Airport.
“The foundation is so excited to bring this economic growth to Galveston sports tourism,” Sullivan said.
“It has been my honor to work with GEDP, city officials and business leaders to bring this amazing opportunity to the island and the Gulf Coast region. It is a true blessing and will change so many lives.”
No doubt, the foundation already is making an impact with its adaptive tennis program, currently being held at the Menard Park Scoggins-Stiglich Courts.
There currently are 28 youngsters enrolled in the program, with the help of 29 volunteer coaching “buddies” from throughout the community.
Sullivan said the tennis center will allow the foundation to expand the adaptive tennis program, offering year-round activities such as league tournaments and camps.
The tennis center also will play host to Special Olympics and other annual events set up for individuals with disabilities and their families.
“The center offers the perfect mix of community development, tourism attractiveness and is inclusive for those with physical and intellectual disabilities who often have few options to explore their athletic abilities,” Sullivan said.
Outside the adaptive tennis program, a variety of USTA and high school tournaments could be hosted by the facility.
As the tournament director of three of those major events — Beachcomber Classic, Remembering Ike-Harvey Team Tennis Classic and the Peter Andrew Sunseri Memorial Team Tennis Tournament — the tennis center is nothing but a huge plus.
The Beachcomber alone, which will be No. 31 in late March, attracts more than 40 schools a year, a vast number from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
And since it takes place during the slow part of the spring break season, that only means countless hotels, restaurants and businesses benefit from the event.
As for the two team tennis tournaments, those draw an additional 24 schools, several of which spend a night or two in Galveston, as well.
So, I certainly hope the community as a whole gets behind this worthy project.
It sure will make Christina smile big one more time — not to mention one determined mom.