8 Oaks Park tournaments pump cash into local economy

  • Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The end of July is always a busy time at the Jameson Inn in Georgetown, but during a recent softball tournament at Eight Oaks Park, "we turned away so many people it was ridiculous," said Ginger Pushia, the general manager.

The Jameson provided rooms for the Georgia Angels during the Dixie Youth Softball Angels and Darlings World Series. It took place at the park July 28 - Aug. 1 and attracted more than 3,000 spectators each day.

Pushia said she has no doubt the tournament was a boon to the local economy.

Preliminary estimates from Georgetown County show she's right.

The World Series was one of two tournaments Georgetown County played host to in July. Visitors brought to the county by those tournaments contributed at least $600,000 to the local economy, an economic impact report states. The report was generated by the county's Department of Recreation and Community Services based on data collected by staff and a formula from the National Association of Sports Commissions.

The World Series resulted in direct spending of at least $371,340 by about 1,135 people who traveled to the county to watch the event, according to the report. An additional $74,922 was spent by 292 visiting event participants.

The week before, a Dixie Youth Baseball state championship tournament brought in at least $106,150 in revenue to the community through direct spending by event spectators. About 325 people traveled to the county to watch the tournament. There were also 135 visiting event participants who spent $34,619. Attendance for the six-day event was more than 2,000.

The figures for the tournaments include about $153,000 in spending on food and beverages, $231,000 for lodgings and $92,200 in retail stores.

The estimates are based on extremely conservative numbers, so the actual economic impact is probably higher, said Beth Goodale, Georgetown County's director of recreation and community services. The cost to the county for hosting the tournaments was covered entirely by sponsorships, admissions and concession stand revenue.

Especially during the World Series, players and their families were visible in the community - shopping, buying gas and helping fill hotels and other lodgings in the City of Georgetown and on the Waccamaw Neck.

The Quality Inn and Suites near the Georgetown harbor reported it was full during both tournaments. A manager said business at the inn definitely benefitted from the tournaments and she would love to see more tournaments come to the county.

At Georgetown's Harbor House Inn, owner Meg Tarbox said there weren't any teams renting from her, but the inn was still full and she thinks it was probably related to the tournaments. She believes more people checked in at the Harbor House during the tournaments because other places were full, she said.

In addition to hotels, inns and motels, teams and their families rented beach houses and condos.

Litchfield Beach Real Estate rented a number of properties as a result of the tournaments that wouldn't have been rented otherwise, said Sharon Abee, marketing and sales coordinator. She said she attributes about 10 percent of sales during that period to the tournaments.

"It helped us on weeks we were very close to being 100 percent to cross over that threshold," she said. The tournaments "are very evident on some reports that I've done. You could tell there was an impact, but I can't put a number to it."

At Pawleys Island Realty, Matt Giltmier said at least five or six rentals were a result of tournaments. It might not sound like a lot, but "you equate that with an average week of $5,000 and you've got some large numbers there," he said.

Eight more softball and baseball tournaments are booked for Eight Oaks. The next is in September.

The county also has seven soccer tournaments booked at Stables Park in Litchfield, which is slated to open next month. Those tournaments start in late October. Staff is also working to bring in lacrosse and tennis tournaments at Stables Park.

"I think we can do really well in winter and spring," Goodale said. "We realize lodging would be difficult, so we probably couldn't host tournaments during the busiest part of the season.

Eight Oaks was also used for a rental tournament this month. Another six-day event, it resulted in $125,000 in direct spending, according to Goodale.

Economic benefit from tournaments was exactly what county officials hoped for when they approved building Eight Oaks and other tournament-level facilities throughout the county as part of the Capital Improvement Plan. The facilities are much needed by local residents, but were also promoted as economic development projects.

A number of people brought to the county by the tournaments were first-time visitors. Some liked the area so much they stayed on for days after their team was eliminated. Hopes are their experience in Georgetown County will make it a future vacation or retirement destination for those families, Goodale said.

"The idea is for them to discover it, love it and come back," she said.

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