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ALACHUA - The City of Alachua is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Alachua County Tourist Development Council.

The grant will be used to make renovations to the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, including the installation of new press boxes near the softball fields.

A total of $100,000 in grants was up for grabs, which is evenly split among the top four applicants based on the ability to draw in tourism.

“We have a clear track record of bringing in out-of-town folks and promoting sports tourism,” said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager, explaining why Alachua got the grant. “Alachua has a very strong reputation in making good on what we say we're going to do. It's undeniable what we bring in.”

The City of Alachua pledged $10,000 in matching funds to help with the project, Boukari said.

The current press boxes are at least 20 years old, he said. By enhancing them, it will help the city to retain the Babe Ruth Softball World Series and other large events. The Babe Ruth Softball World Series brings in thousands of visitors per year to the county.

“Any time you can use funds to enhance community facilities, it's a win,” he said. The press box is in desperate need of an upgrade, he said.

Some of the money will also be used for new signs around the complex to help direct visitors around.

Seven entities applied, the cities of Gainesville, Alachua and Newberry, as well as the Hippodrome State Theatre, the Alachua Chamber of Commerce, the Alachua Historic Trust and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. The City of Newberry withdrew its application before the grants were awarded.

The top four were the City of Alachua, the City of Gainesville, the Hippodrome State Theatre and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.

Alachua almost didn't make the cut. The first time it submitted the application, it received a score of 52.92 out of 74, placing it outside the top four. It resubmitted and later got a 59.92, second to only Kanapaha.

The criteria of the scores included whether the city would match the funds, how well the application process describes the project, whether the project is sustainable in the long-term and eight other factors.

The money for the grant came from an increase on the Alachua County bed tax in 2010, which raised the tax on renting hotel and motel rooms from three cents on the dollar to five cents on the dollar.  

Alachua was awarded the grant because it has proven itself capable of holding large events, such as the Babe Ruth Softball World Series, said John Pricher, of the Tourist Development Council. The key questions are whether there would be a return on investment for tourism in the county and how the money will help encourage tourism, he said.

“Alachua is doing an excellent job in answering both those questions,” Pricher said.

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