Full financial numbers are not yet available, but it’s already clear that Columbus impressed the right people as the host of the United States International Softball Cup last month. As a result, the city is on track for the National Women’s Team to return here next year on their way to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Columbus, where Olympic softball made its debut in 1996, also has a good chance of continuing to be the site of other elite-level tournaments that combine to bring in millions of dollars in the Western Georgia region. and eastern Alabama, according to local and U.S. Softball officials.
Finalization of the agreement
Merri Sherman, executive director of the Columbus Sports Council, told LE in an email: âWe are finalizing a deal with USA Softball to be a stop on the Road to Tokyo tour for the Olympic team in the spring of 2020. We are thrilled. for the opportunity to once again welcome the red, white and blue, Team USA. We also look forward to future opportunities to host (other) US softball events in Columbus.
The format of the tour is not defined, Sherman said, “but it will most likely be an exhibit with the possibility of a youth event this weekend.”
The Sports Council is a non-profit organization that recruits and organizes sporting events with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department to improve the quality of life and the economic development of the city.
Codi Warren, general manager of communications for USA Softball, told LE in an email Wednesday: âTour stops have not been finalized and will only be announced at a later date. At this time, we are unable to provide additional details. “
In a previous email, however, Warren referred to Columbus as the host.
âThe Columbus Sports Council and Columbus Parks and Recreation have done a fantastic job as hosts of the USA Softball International Cup,â she said. âFrom the refurbished facilities to the support staff and volunteers, their hospitality and dedication to making the USA Softball International Cup a success has been second to none. If USA Softball were to seek other locations for this event in the future, Columbus would be considered.
By âalternative venues,â Warren means that the United States International Softball Cup is usually played in Oklahoma City, where the organization is located. The only other city to host this tournament, called the 2005-2017 Softball World Cup, is Irvine, California.
Prestigious and precious
The International Olympic Committee voted three years ago to return softball, along with baseball, to the Olympic program in 2020 for the Tokyo Summer Games.
It was a vote reversal 14 years ago when the IOC quit softball and baseball. For example, softball was present at the Olympic Games for only four of the 28 Summer Games: 1996 in Columbus; 2000 in Sydney, Australia; 2004 in Athens, Greece; and 2008 in Beijing, China.
All of this makes the USA Softball International Cup more prestigious and valuable, as there is no guarantee that softball will remain on the Olympic program.
No decision has been made on where to host the U.S. International Softball Cup in 2020, due to preparations for the Olympics, Warren said, and the dates and location of the 2021 event. have not been announced.
The $ 4.8 million renovation of the South Commons softball complex “created a beautiful aesthetic while providing ample workspace and hospitality needs for our teams, staff and guests,” said Warren . âThe fans who attended the event created a great atmosphere for all the teams. “
The 10-team US International Softball Cup featured 50 games at the eight-field complex from July 1-7. Attendance figures per game are not available as admission was for each day. The complex’s stadium, with a capacity of around 2,500 fans, averaged 1,086 spectators per day, Sherman said. The total attendance for the week at South Commons was 11,443, including accredited staff, she said.
Last month, Columbus also hosted the United States Women’s National Softball Championships in several age groups.
More than attendance
When asked what the assisting factor was in USA Softball’s choice to host their tournaments, Warren replied, âFor national championships it all depends on the relationship between the host city and our local associations. The Columbus fans were fantastic – great crowds who created a positive and exciting atmosphere for our athletes and participating countries. “
Warren also praised the “phenomenal” field team and said the staff and volunteers were “extremely helpful and professional”.
In addition to the USA Softball International Cup, the resort also hosted the four-team Futures Cup for young players this week. Together, these tournaments have brought in about $ 1.1 million to the local economy, VisitColumbusGA President and CEO Peter Bowden said Thursday.
âIt’s a big impact,â he said.
Columbus has also received invaluable media exposure, including TV shows on ESPN and ESPN2.
Sherman said she was not yet sure how last month’s tournaments fared financially in terms of income and expenses, as she is still waiting for “a few bills and a few receivables,” but the softball events have generated more than 147 million dollars for the Columbus area since 1995, when the complex was built, according to the sports council.
She recalled US team coach Ken Eriksen describing South Commons as “a cathedral for softball.” And the congratulations on Columbus extended beyond the tournament.
âWe have heard nothing but positive comments from the teams, USA Softball staff, ESPN and visitors about the hospitality they have received from our community,â said Sherman. âFrom their hotel stays, to the restaurants they visited, to the grocery stores they went to, everyone congratulated themselves on the way they were treated in Columbus.â
When asked what Columbus could have done better as a host, Warren didn’t mention anything. Sherman noted that staff and volunteers have completed the renovations to the softball complex on a tight schedule. The occupancy certificate was issued only one day before the start of the practices.
The LE did not reach out to City Manager Isaiah Hugley or Parks and Recreation Director Holli Browder for comment before the deadline for this story.