Atmore's grand slam event

Published 6:00 pm Monday, January 29, 2007

By By Adam Prestridge
When the dust begins to stir up on the baseball diamonds at Tom Byrne Park this July, Atmore businesses will hit a home run.
The recent announcement by Atmore Cal Ripken League commissioner Murray Johnson that Atmore had been chosen as the host site for two Cal Ripken state tournaments has city officials and residents wondering how the huge event will impact the local economy.
Susan Foy, executive director for the Alex City Chamber of Commerce, said last year's 9-10-year-old Cal Ripken state tournament made a huge economic impact on her city.
"Nine times out of 10 every hotel in the area is going to be booked up," Foy said. "It's always a big thing. The parents come and on a break they go out to eat and shop in your stores. We like baseball tournaments."
Foy said Alex City has played host to several huge tournaments over the past several years. She said her staff works hand-in-hand with Alex City Parks and Recreation director John Smith to ensure all the visiting teams and their families have adequate information pertaining to the town at their fingertips.
"We passed out visitor's guides at the local hotels as part of the Chamber's way to provide information about what they can do while they are here," Foy said. "They're going to want to eat for sure. We certainly saw an increase in activity in hotels, restaurants and retail. Tournaments do make an impact."
Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Emilie Mims said Friday that she has already spoken with Johnson on how the chamber can team up with the league to ensure the visiting teams are fully informed about Atmore.
According to Johnson, 10 teams will compete in each tournament. The 12-year-old tournament will be held July 5-9 and the 10-year-old event will be held July 12-16. Each team will have a minimum of 12 players and a maximum of 15, and will have three coaches in the dugout. With 18 total teams traveling, there would be between 270 and 324 players and coaches visiting Atmore depending on the total number of players on each team.
On average, two parents, one sibling and two other relatives will accompany each player to the tournaments, which would bring between 1,296 and 1,620 additional people to the City of Atmore during the two-week span of the tournament.
"I don't think we've ever had a tournament of this magnitude," Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said. "We've had a number of tournaments here and when we do have a tournament it brings in people from all across the state into the city. They have a monumental amount of parents, grandparents, friends and relatives that come to see them, so it is a very exciting and very profitable situation for the town because people come in, they eat at the restaurants, stay in the motels and while they are here shop in the stores. It's nothing, but a good thing."
Shell said Johnson should be commended for securing the tournament for Atmore.
"I believe Murray deserves a lot of credit because he's been involved in the baseball program for so many years and he knows people throughout the organization," Shell said. "They are comfortable with him being the director here in Atmore knowing that they will be treated fairly and with the best of service."
Shell agrees that the tournaments will be a boost to Atmore's economy. He said not only will players, coaches and families have to stay in hotels and eat at local restaurants, but they will also be purchasing gasoline at local gas stations and shopping in retail establishments.
According to Pam Smith, research specialist for the Center for Business and Economic Development, $10,510.04 was collected in Alabama's 4-percent lodging tax in Escambia County, Ala. last year up from $9,875.98 in 2005. She said last year's total should be significantly increased by the Cal Ripken tournaments. A total of $105,621.94 in state lodging tax was collected in the county in 2006 excluding November and December, which have not yet been reported, Smith said.
"This will not be a one-day thing," Johnson said. "The people will be here from Thursday until Sunday for sure and we will have the championship games and consolation games on Monday, so some of the teams will still be here."
Johnson said 16 teams would have to obtain lodging during the tournament weeks. There will be two Atmore teams that will stay at home and two Mobile teams that will travel back-and-forth to Tom Byrne Park for a total of 20 teams.
Even though officials may strike out when trying to estimate the exact figures the tournament will provide for the city, everyone agrees that it will be a profitable two-week span.
"I don't know the exact economic impact of this tournament, but I know it will help the city," Johnson said.

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