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E'town Sports Park lands Cal Ripken regional tournament for 2012

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Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission projects it could create economic impact of $100,000 or more

By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown Sports Park has secured its first high-profile tournament for the 2012 schedule.

The Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau on Wednesday announced the park has acquired the 12-year-old “50/70” Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional Baseball Tournament, which is July 26-31.

The event includes 12 teams from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Each team must qualify in their own state to participate, and the winner of the tournament will move on to the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Md., later in the summer, said Mike Pyles, tournament director of Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission. The EABC is the hosting commission for the tournament and will assist with tournament direction, volunteers, event management and ticket sales, according to the ETCB.

Pyles said the EABC is granted a slot in the tournament as the host.

According to a news release issued by the tourism bureau, Babe Ruth, the parent organization of Cal Ripken baseball, approves locations for World Series qualifiers based on facilities, hotels and overall community support. It also looks for parks that offer a “competitive athletic experience,” according to the release.

Elizabethtown hosted the regional tournament at University Drive Park in 2008, but Pyles said holding the tournament in a state-of-the-art park will create a “spoiling” experience for qualifying teams.

“Hosting a prestigious tournament at the new park is exciting for EABC and a perfect opportunity to showcase the park to surrounding states,” he said in a statement.

Pyles said the commission decided after 2008 to focus its efforts on landing the tournament again and chose 2012 as the year so the park could be the venue.

“This is going to be an economic boon for the city,” he said. “We project that this tournament will bring over $100,000 in money spent in our city over the week.”

Janna Clark, sports and sales director for ETCB, said the city is working on a tentative schedule with park officials but this is the first solid commitment for the inaugural season. She said planners hope to host several sports in the first year, including baseball, fast-pitch softball, football, lacrosse and soccer.

While the goal is to secure numerous events, Clark said officials must be mindful to attract a manageable event load for the first year.

“It will not be hard to get people here the first time,” she said. “It’s not a hard sell.”

The challenge, she said, is to leave a lasting impression on teams and events so they will want to come back. The only way to do that is to get the experience right the first time, she added.

City Councilman Marty Fulkerson said this experience must extend beyond the park to hotels, restaurants and businesses.  Clark agreed and said if businesses are prepared in advance for visits by teams, they can better accommodate with reservations, discounts and parking space.

“We do want them in our restaurants because (the restaurant tax) is what is paying for this (sports park),” Fulkerson said.

To finalize the deal, the Elizabethtown Tourism Commission voted to pay the $3,000 hosting fee to hold the event.
Elizabethtown Planning Director Ed Poppe also updated the commission on the park’s construction and said a recent stint of good weather has helped “immensely” in moving the project along. But Poppe said grass is not taking to three of the soccer fields are not taking to the grass and will need to be redone in May. The remaining six, he said, appear to be growing appropriately.

Poppe also said he wants to arrange a tour of the site soon to give tourism officials a look at the progress.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.