Riverbend Park receives national award

Jan. 22—Saying staff at Whitfield County's Riverbend Park went "above and beyond" to help them finish their 2022 Men's World Softball Championship, the Independent Sports Association (ISA) has named Riverbend its 2022 ISA Complex of the Year.

And Amber Hefner, sales manager for the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), received the ISA's 2022 Jerry Jackson Award of Excellence.

"We would not have gotten to finish our ISA Men's World Championship this year if it had not been for your willingness to help us out in any way that you could," said ISA CEO Mike Caldwell of the park's staff.

Caldwell said the Jerry Jackson Award is given to "someone who goes above and beyond to help our association."

In a recent Whitfield County Board of Commissioners meeting, Director of Tourism Margaret Thigpen said the ISA brought five events into Whitfield County in 2022.

"They utilized Heritage Point (Park), Edwards (Park) and Riverbend," she said. "In August, we had a severe weather incident, and they weren't able to complete the part of the tournament at Heritage Point. Riverbend stepped up and was able to help complete their world championship. All in all, in 2022, they brought in about 2,545 visitors into our community, and it's actually an economic impact of about $285,000."

The association plans to bring its championship back to Whitfield County this August.

Thigpen said the CVB would not be able to land such events "without the cooperation of the Parks and Recreation Department."

The ISA was founded in 1984 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, by Larry Nash, according to a press release. It is one of the four major governing bodies of amateur softball in America.

Riverbend Park opened in 2022.

The county bought the first 51 acres of the 75-acre park in 2015. Its construction was funded with about $13 million from the county's share of the four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2020.

The park has a FIFA-size soccer field with permanent seating for 1,500. FIFA is the international governing body for soccer. There's a walking track around the field. The field also has portable seating for another 500-600 that can be moved to the park's other fields when needed.

The park has two soccer/football fields and four multipurpose fields.

The 30,000-square-foot community center has two gyms, two community meeting rooms, team dressing rooms, staff offices, a walking track around the top of the gyms and a covered pavilion on the back side of the building.

The park is at 1999 Riverbend Road off the south Dalton bypass near Southeast Whitfield High School.