The National Softball Association Northern World Series is returning to the Region in the summer and is expected to bring as many as 10,000 visitors.
Bill Horton, president of the National Softball Association, estimates the international tournament, which is expected to draw up to 144 travel teams from across the Midwest and Canada, will have an economic impact of around $2 million to $2.5 million in Northwest Indiana. Visiting families will rent hotel rooms, dine at restaurants and spend money at other local businesses during the three-day tournament in late July.
"The last time we hosted this restaurants and bars around the square in Crown Point were packed," said Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. "They said it was like having a fifth Saturday night on a Monday."
Batistatos said the World Series is the biggest youth sports draw in Northwest Indiana.
"It's very good for us and our restaurants and our retail," he said. "It's a great partnership to have NSA in town."
The Michigan-based youth fast pitch softball government league is bringing its World Series back to Northwest Indiana for the fourth time in the past decade, and the third year in a row. Traveling athletes in various age groups in the "B" and "C" leagues will compete to be crowned champion at 33 softball diamonds across the Region during the final week of July.
Traveling teams will hail from about eight to 12 states, including Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, as well as from Windsor and other places in Canada, Horton said. They're expected to clock in 4,000 to 5,000 hotel room nights in a major boon for local innkeepers.
As a rule of thumb, visiting families will typically spend around $250 a day on lodging, food, gas and other expenses in Northwest Indiana, said Erika Dahl, director of communications with the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
"And with an event like this, you'll even have grandparents visiting," she said.
The National Softball Association's "B" and "C" league World Series wasn't supposed to return to the Region until 2019. It initially was going to Evansville, but that community already scheduled another local tournament during the same time in late July and could not accommodate both events.
Horton said with the economic impact of this type of tournament, "it is pretty crazy in my mind to throw it away. But we are ecstatic to be back in the area this year."
Crown Point's SportsPlex will serve as the main venue, but games also are expected to take place in Highland, Munster, Hobart, Portage and LaPorte County.
"Baseball draws 3,000 to 5,000, but the traveling is much higher with fast pitch," Horton said. "There is more traveling with girls than with boys, 5,000 to 10,000. You get about a person and a half more. When it's baseball, just the father and son go. When it's softball, the whole family goes. The amount of revenue you get from outside customers is huge."
Batistatos said Northwest Indiana hopes to host the softball and baseball youth World Series in alternating years to ensure a steady stream of tourism in July and hopes to capitalize off youth travel sports in the future.
"Being able to say you host and are one of the strategic partners of the National Softball Association gives you important credibility in the youth sports market," he said. "It's a great asset. As more youth sports facilities come online in various municipalities, we look to get more."