Sports tournaments are big business in the Tri-City area. And bats will be swinging and cash registers ringing this weekend as the Triple Crown Sports Father's Day Slugfest brings an estimated 4,000 baseball players, coaches and their cheering sections to the Tri-Cities.
The event is estimated to generate almost $1.2 million in revenue for Tri-City hotels, restaurants and other merchants, said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau in Kennewick.
"Most will be arriving by car and will be gassing up while here and before leaving too. They're also looking for things to do between games, so they shop, maybe catch a movie, some may golf," she said.
When Watkins first joined the bureau in 1994, she drove by hotels on the weekends and saw mostly empty parking lots.
"Now tournaments like this and other events during the summer fill the 3,490 rooms we have available nearly every weekend. With this many people coming to town, we'll likely have people staying in Prosser and Walla Walla too," she said.
When Triple Crown Sports, an organization based out of Fort Collins, Colo., first began bringing Slugfest to the Tri-Cities in 2007 there were only 35 teams.
"This year's tournament has 135 teams in a variety of age groups. The economic impact is huge for the Tri-City area," said Karen Coulson, sports and events supervisor for Kennewick Park and Recreation.
Slugfest has grown largely because more ball fields have been built. Kennewick added the Southridge Sports & Events Complex in 2012, bringing the total number of baseball fields in the city to 12, while Richland has eight and Pasco six.
"They'll also be using some of the fields at the high schools. Wherever you go in the Tri-Cities this weekend, you'll be able to find a game," Coulson said.
Slugfest draws teams from throughout the Northwest. For many, their first experience with the Tri-Cities is through a sports event or a convention.
"In most cases, they're leaving with a very, very favorable impression of the Tri-Cities. We have great weather, the wineries, golf courses, the river. Who knows, one of those people coming for Slugfest might be an influential person with their company and able to get them to consider relocating here," Watkins said.
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