A cool gush of water just a button away as BREC splash pads open for 2015 season _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Baton Rouge's Amyria Bennett, 7, dances through sprays of water at the splash pad at BREC's Greenwood Community Park during an outing Wednesday afternoon. Splash pads at three BREC parks opened for the season Wednesday, and will operate daily from 8 a.m.-- 8 p.m., April through October. The parks are Greenwood, at 13350 Hwy. 19 in Baker, City-Brooks Community Park at 1515 Dalrymple Drive and Forest Community Park at 3140 N Sherwood Forest Drive. At each park, pushing a button on a nearby pole activates the sprays for several minutes, and they can be activated again with another push, when the water stops.

BREC is a valuable partner to Visit Baton Rouge as we work in concert to create spaces and events that bring visitors, and their business, to the Baton Rouge area.

In 2004, the park system commissioned a study to determine the annual impact of visitors to its facilities and events. It found the total economic impact of visitors to our parks, as measured by direct expenditures and adjusted to 2014 dollars, is about $12.9 million annually. That includes $8.8 million at sports and recreation facilities, $3.3 million at nature and wildlife facilities and $.8 million at art, history and theater facilities and events.

The annual sales impact in 2014 values is $20.9 million. That is striking, but the most direct benefits to residents of the parish are the 7.7 million visitors who contribute to residents’ personal income, which supports hundreds of local jobs.

A recent example includes the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Regional Championship, which came to the Burbank Soccer Complex last June, generating a record-setting $6.7 million in revenues for hotels. That was a boost of 41 percent and contributed to what was the most successful year for visitor spending to date.

BREC also attracts thousands of visitors each year to the zoo, Farr Park Equestrian and RV Campgrounds, Liberty Lagoon Water Park, Extreme Sports Park and seven golf courses, among many other facilities we are fortunate to have in our community.

Over the last 10 years, the park system has made great strides in constructing new facilities and renovating existing ones, but there are many large, important projects that still must be completed and funded in order to build on that progress. In order to continue attracting tournaments, festivals and events, we must continue our support of what is a nationally recognized park system. BREC’s system has positioned Baton Rouge at the top of national “good lists” recently. Please help keep it that way.

Paul J. Arrigo

president/CEO, Visit Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge