LANCASTER — City officials, who dedicated two new ball fields this week, say they have lined up 20 regional softball tournaments that are expected to bring about $3 million in economic benefits to Lancaster next year.
If these events are successful, the city will try to attract even more lucrative interstate and national softball tournaments, local leaders say. "We have to develop a reputation," said Lyle Norton, the city's parks recreation and arts director. "We need to prove ourselves as a real tournament town."
City Council members talked about next year's tournaments and the revenue they are expected to produce while dedicating two new lighted softball fields, which cost $850,000 to construct at Lancaster City Park. The funds came from Lancaster's share of a countywide park bond measure approved by voters in 1992.
The new ball fields are in addition to four existing ones at the park, making it a prime location for tournaments where as many as six softball games can be played simultaneously.
City leaders estimate the 20 tournaments will bring about 4,500 adult athletes to town from as far as San Diego and Santa Barbara, along with coaches, friends and family members.
"They stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants and buy gasoline at local stations," Mayor Arnie Rodio said in a prepared statement. "This is all new money coming in and staying in our community."
Based on an economic impact formula prepared by the American Softball Assn., the tournament players and their companions will spend about $3 million in Lancaster during the 20 events, each lasting two or three days, Norton said.
In addition to the new ball fields, a private developer is about to build a batting cage complex at the park, allowing players to practice hitting softballs or baseballs. The city will receive a share of the income from this business, which is expected to open in April, Norton said.
Rodio said the city also is trying to attract soccer tournaments, which could give the city another economic boost.
"Bookings of these regional tournaments are part of the City Council's goal to diversify the local economy by bringing more tourists to the area," the mayor said. "Sports tournaments are big business."