Thunderplex will host softball finals

The Valley could keep the tournament for four years if this one goes well.
VIENNA -- Two weeks from now, 10,000 visitors are expected to generate up to $8.2 million in primary and secondary purchasing as they stay in the Mahoning Valley and surrounding counties for a national softball tournament.
Thunderplex Inc., 812 Youngstown-Kingsville Road, is the headquarters July 24-30 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 will be played at Perkins and Packard parks in Warren, Harding Park in Hubbard, Liberty Township Center Park, Lordstown Park, and Candlelight Knolls Fields in Bazetta.
"These are all girls and these are the finest teams in the country," said David Anderson, an owner of Thunderplex.
Inspiring the public
The tournament was awarded locally in December after seven years in Raleigh, N.C., and organizers have tried since then to educate local establishments about what's coming to them, said Anderson.
"Folks at this point don't really understand what's about to come down on them," he said. "Hotels, restaurants, movies, gas -- the whole bit."
For example, there are now 1,600 rooms reserved for the event. In the next two weeks that number will grow to 2,000. The average stay of these visitors will be six nights, in lodging in Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage and Geauga counties, Anderson said.
"With 10,000 people coming, that's an awful lot of purchasing going on," he added.
"The folks that are prepared through target marketing or advertising -- anything they can do to bring these folks to them -- they're going to have a hell of a week," Anderson said.
Calculating the amount spent per person per day on food and lodging, Anderson said the tally would be $4.4 million in direct spending. That would then generate secondary spending as businesses and suppliers buy products to serve their customers -- raising the tally to $8.1 million to $8.2 million, he said.
Event preparation
Between 220 and 280 teams are expected. Teams are now playing qualifying tournaments in different parts of the United States. They are from the U.S., Canada and other countries. PONY -- Protect Our Nation's Youth -- is an international organization.
Opening ceremonies are 6:00 to 9:45 p.m. July 24 at Eastwood Field -- including team recognitions and fireworks.
It's expected that 860 games will be played across the county, Anderson said. If weather is bad they'll go all night, but games are set for 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., so people can get out and enjoy the community afterward -- and spend.
Anyone can come to the venues and watch the games. "Folks are going to see some fantastic fast-pitch softball," he said.
Evening events through the week are planned at Churchill Park in Liberty, Courthouse Square in Warren, the Eastwood Mall main concourse, Best Western Meander Inn, Country Inn & amp; Suites and Hampton Inn, Austintown. (See www.thunderplexsports.-com/tournaments for more.)
There are 125 volunteers signed up to help the tournament but a total of 300 are needed. If interested, call Anderson's wife Marcee at (330) 539-6186.
Anderson said Thunderplex has a four-year deal with PONY if this year's event succeeds. "As long as we're doing a good job, there's no reason for PONY to leave," he said.
This tournament is different from the LPGA golf events hosted in the Valley in recent years, Anderson added, because of the volume of overnight stays. "Here, 95 percent of the people coming in have hotel reservations."

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