City preps to shine up their diamonds in time for 10-year-old world series
By J.R. Williams - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- With the blessing of the City Council, preparations are under way to host the country's best 10-year-old baseball players next year in Winchester.
City leaders approved a request Tuesday to use $75,000 in reserve funds to host the 2011 Cal Ripken-Babe Ruth 10-Year-Old World Series. More than 100 aspiring athletes will play ball at an upgraded Yost Field at Jim Barnett Park.
Even in a tough economic climate, "we don't stop existing as a city," Councilman Art Major said after the vote. "This is good for the overall spirit of the city."
A date hasn't been finalized, but officials expect to sign a contract sometime next month, said Winchester Parks and Recreation Director Brad Veach.
"They said, 'It's yours if you want it,'" Veach said.
The city is partnering with Winchester Baseball to make the event a reality. Cal Ripken Baseball, a division of the Babe Ruth League, operates world series events annually for 10- to 12-year-olds at alternating sites.
Officials are touting the 10-day tournament as an economic engine. More than 100 players are expected to attend with their coaches and family, driving business to area hotels and restaurants.
Both cities to host the 10-year-olds in 2009 and 2008 reported a positive economic return.
"Through all our banners, tickets, concessions, after everything was done, the committee made around $75,000," said Rick Akers, parks and recreation director for Lamar, Colo., which hosted the event last summer. "We still made money, and we gave back to the kids."
Lamar raised about $70,000 from sponsorships and about $20,000 in admission tickets. A souvenir booth made about $10,500.
"We had good participation, good attendance, but you didn't see a lot of grandmas and grandpas like we thought we would," Akers said. Rights to the tournament come with a $40,000 price tag, and Lamar paid for it with a tourism tax.
Lamar, population 8,500, drew 24 coaches and 114 players. Most stayed 10 days and played on a new field built with grant money. About 250 adults and 200 children stayed in 140 hotel rooms, according to provided data.
Attendees who flew in were bused from Denver, more than 200 miles away.
"The city saw a boost," Akers said.
The southern Louisiana city of Abbeville, population 11,000, is no stranger to Babe Ruth Baseball. Since 1995, it has hosted several tournaments for multiple age groups, and most recently hosted 10-year-olds in 2008.
"We've done them all," said Tommy Picard, director of AA Comeaux Youth Inc., which operates parks and recreation services for the Abbeville. "Motels are full, the restaurants are full. It's a tremendous event."
But there's work to do in Winchester before the players arrive.
The $70,000 approved by council will be taken from the Parks and Recreation Department's reserve fund balance. Winchester Baseball has committed to a fundraising effort to raise another $70,000.
"Winchester Baseball brings a huge and very reliable network of volunteers," Veach said. "They have really stepped up."
Officials were turned down for a $500,000 grant to upgrade lighting at Bridgeforth Field and at Yost, which will be the only active field during the tournament. New field lights were to be installed.
In the absence of the grant, a local contractor will install new ballasts and bulbs on 30 fixtures and two rows of four lights on each outfield pole.
A donated scoreboard will replace the current one. The press box will be repaired and upgraded, fencing and the backstop will be repaired and the walking trail may be resurfaced.
A committee will be formed to oversee preparations. Veach said he planned on visiting Purcellville, which is hosting the Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series in August, to see what was working there.
"We want to do a good job so Babe Ruth says, 'When do you want to do this again?'"