Big tournament brings tourism dollars

Published 7:48 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Washington tourism is set to get a major boost in July as hundreds of players, friends and family pour into town to play ball.
The Babe Ruth Eastern North Carolina state tournament will bring all-star softball players, ages 7 to 16, from 58 North Carolina counties for the weeklong tournament at the Susie Gray McConnell Sports Complex.
“We’re anticipating 1,500 people at the complex for the opening ceremony on Monday,” said Greg Dority, president of the Washington Girls Softball League. “These are all-star teams from various counties that have won a district tournament. These are champions or they are runners-up in strong districts.”
Winners of the tournament will progress to the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Tournament in Richmond, Va. But more important to Washington is the amount of tourism dollars that such a tournament will bring to the area.
“The merchants are very psyched — we’ve prepared bags that are going to all the coaches with information about Washington’s resources,” said Beth Byrd, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance. “We’re really thinking this is going to be a great opportunity.”
According to Dority, the great opportunity resides in the fact that most of the players are travel-team players, their parents accustomed to spending money as they travel with the team.
“We’re anticipating every hotel room in town is going to be full,” Dority said.
The July tournament is an outgrowth of a move seven years ago from city-sponsored leagues to private-sector endeavors. Since, the Washington teams have become more active in the postseason. According to Dority, this means Washington is becoming a tournament destination. Washington has previously hosted two travel-team tournaments on a smaller scale.
With help from the City of Washington, as well as the Tourism Development Authority, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, WHDA and other organizations, the softball league is preparing to host 40 to 45 teams, playing 42 games per day on six fields, and steering players, coaches and family to local businesses during down time.
“The city has bent over backwards to help us,” Dority said. “It’s an excellent example of the public/private partnership succeeding,”