PONY SOFTBALL Tournament brings in big business

Next year's participants should have more options for local lodging.
WARREN -- The local organizer of the PONY fast-pitch softball national championships says he's secured a commitment for 800 additional motel and hotel rooms in Trumbull County when the event returns next year.
It's too early to say if the event July 24-30 hit its economic impact target of $6 million for Trumbull, Mahoning and surrounding counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, said David Anderson, an owner of Thunderplex in Vienna Township.
He told county commissioners Wednesday, however, that "PONY is looking forward to coming back next year." A formal announcement, is not far off, he said.
He said the PONY event's first experience here -- after seven years in Raleigh, N.C. -- met with great reviews.
"Trumbull County out-southerned the southern hospitality," he said.
The estimated 10,000 visitors were welcomed at area restaurants and shopping places, particularly in Niles, Anderson noted. The hotels and motels also have warmed to the event with the provision of 800 more rooms for next year, he said.
That, Anderson said, would keep more of the event's economic impact within Trumbull County. He told commissioners he would provide impact numbers for last month's event as soon as he completes his report.
Hotel patronage
This year one of the tournament's difficulties was finding enough rooms to reserve. Participants and spectators found themselves in Portage and other counties, Anderson said. They stayed an average 5.5 nights, he said.
"These folks came to spend money, and they spent a lot," he said.
Trumbull County's Tourism Board already has allocated $25,000 to start preparations for next year's event, Anderson said.
Thunderplex Inc., 812 Youngstown-Kingsville Road, was the headquarters for the PONY fast-pitch softball national championships, for girls age 16 and under. Thunderplex is a 20-acre facility with five outdoor fields.
Games also were played at Perkins and Packard parks in Warren, Harding Park in Hubbard, Liberty Township Center Park, Lordstown Park, and Candlelight Knolls Fields in Bazetta.
"The teams just loved them," Anderson said of the local ballfields.
About 100 volunteers helped out; Anderson said 200 to 250 are needed for 2006.

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