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McDuffie reaps economic benefits from softball tourney

The stores were cleaned out. The hotels were full, and restaurants had no place to seat the regular crowd.

Last week, McDuffie County got its second biggest shot in the economic arm of the year, and there wasn't a professional golfer in sight. What people did see were softball players, and plenty of them.

The United States Specialty Sports Association Slow Pitch World Series brought in 72 teams and thousands of spectators to Sweetwater Park. And most of them shopped, ate and even stayed in McDuffie, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

That economic boost is something for which local leaders are very thankful.

"Conventional wisdom says that most tourists are going to spend about $100 a day in a community that they're in," said Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers. "So you take that and multiply by however many folks were here ... and it's a big impact."

Epp Wilson, owner of White Columns Inn, felt the impact of the softball tournament, having the hotel's rooms full throughout the event.

"The pool was so full, you could just about walk from one side of the pool to the other and never get your feet wet if you just stepped on the heads of the kids in the pool," he said. "It was a real good event, so we appreciate the business impact that it had."

Since Mr. Wilson is a member of the Tourism Board, he said the money generated by the hotel/motel tax from this week should go a long way to fund more events coming to the county. He also said the money spent by participants will do wonders in building up McDuffie County.

"You saw them everywhere," he said. "You saw them in the bank cashing checks. Why are they cashing checks? Because they're spending money. Well, where are they spending it? Everywhere; up and down Main Street. ...It is a good clean industry."

The heat wave that came through during the tournament also provided an unexpected boost to the economy. All the spectators who weren't quite prepared for the high temperatures had to go somewhere nearby for ways to keep out of the sun and especially to stay hydrated.

"We sold out of water and had to ship in some stuff out of Augusta just to get in stock on Thursday afternoon," said Rick Mansell, co-manager of the Thomson Wal-Mart. "All the misting fans that we could sell, all the coolers, all the chairs, all the chair umbrellas, anything to keep the sun off, folks were buying."

And for meals, tournament participants and their parents had their choice of McDuffie restaurants. But with the number of children in town, there was one place that was sure to be full.

"I know the traffic did increase, of course, over the weekend," said local McDonald's Owner Rusty Hamilton. "We did see an increase of out of town customers from people staying in the hotels and so forth here. So it definitely had a positive impact on us."

The impact on the county itself will continue to be felt through the collection of sales tax dollars. But according to Recreation Department Director Bob Howard, there are more tournaments on the way in the future.

"This is the best tournament that we've had as far as bringing revenue into our department since I've been here," he said. "We normally do two to three tournaments at the end of June and two in July. ...Hopefully we'll get it back."

Mr. Howard said the locations for next year's slate of tournaments will be decided in November. He said the success of the recent tournament - despite the heat - will play into the USSSA's decision to hold more tournaments of similar size at Sweetwater.

"They'll look at the way that the tournament was run and how it was organized and all that," he said. "That will be a feather in our cap."

Web posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005


Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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