Diamond Destinations: Softball
31 Aug, 2011By: Juli Anne Patty
This summer, softball, recently excluded from the Olympics games, made the first step toward its comeback. In July, the IOC announced its official list of sports being considered for the 2020 Games, and that list included softball.
With all this action on the world sports stage, softball continues to grow in America, and whether or not that makes any impact on the IOC’s decision, it definitely impacts the decisions of communities across America. As softball participation continues to increase, America’s sports destinations are investing in newer, bigger and better softball complexes every year.
“Our City Council has spent the last decade making nice park facilities a priority, and now we’re reaping the benefits of that,” says April Patterson, director of tourism, Sherman Department of Tourism. “One of our newest parks even includes an amphitheater and lawn, giving event owners the chance to offer some kind of entertainment for athletes and their families while they’re here.”
Old Settlers Park is a popular facility with fans and parents, thanks to the ample shade, which makes a summer game far more enjoyable. In addition to its four fields, Old Settlers Park includes a playground, five baseball fields and two basketball courts. Fairview Park has three softball fields, along with a baseball field, several soccer//var/www/vhosts/production.sportsdestinations.com/httpdocsfootball fields, a 2.5-mile walking trail, four pavilions, four tennis courts and, perhaps its most appealing feature for a Texas summer, The Splash Family Aquatic Center.
Less than an hour from Dallas, Sherman is a convenient and affordable alternative to the expenses and crowds of the city.
“We’re a smaller town and we pride ourselves on the fact that in Sherman, no matter where you play, it’s a five, maybe ten-minute drive,” says Patterson.
Columbia’s Rainbow Softball Center is an all-lighted six-field softball center located in the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Center (Cosmo Park). Specially designed to meet all Amateur Softball Association standards, Rainbow Softball Center was honored as the 2000 Facility of the Year by the Missouri Amateur Softball Association.
“The actual park is 533 acres. It was an airport years ago,” says Julie Ausmus, tourism development program manager, Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Also, it’s just off of I-70, across the street from Columbia Mall with lots of shopping and restaurants, as well as close to most of our hotels which are also located along I-70.”
Located at the north end of Cosmo Park is Antimi Sports Complex, an eight-field combination baseball//var/www/vhosts/production.sportsdestinations.com/httpdocssoftball and tee-ball center, putting a dozen softball fields within easy reach of one another.
Columbia certainly has the facilities to handle softball tournaments of any size, but this is a city that offers nothing less than the full package, with 3,611 hotel rooms in Columbia and an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and sights, including Columbia’s new dinner train, the Columbia Star, a 1950s-era steamliner locomotive that welcomed its first passengers July 15.
Binghamton, New York
In Binghamton, the center of softball action is at BAGSAI, the Binghamton Area Girls Softball Association Inc. This four-field complex is owned by the county and features a complete concession area catered by Perry Pasquale of Binghamton's Pasquale's Deli.
“Most of our girls’ softball tournaments are at BAGSAI,” explains Judi Hess, tourism and special events manager, Greater Binghamton Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Tournaments take place there all summer long, and we also do a 12 and under New York state qualifier.”
Another big spot on Binghamton’s softball schedule is occupied by the Stop DWI Tournament of Champions.
BAGSAI will once again host this major college scouting tournament, now in its 11th year this July. The tournament features 46 Class “A” and Gold 18 and under fast pitch teams from throughout the United States and draws over 60 college coaches. Since its inaugural year in 2001, the tournament has received ongoing praise from attending teams and college coaches, making the Stop DWI Tournament of Champions one of the top exposure tournaments in the country.
Always living up to the Texas reputation for making things bigger and better, Beaumont’s Ford Fields recently upgraded its facility, installing synthetic turf on four fields. The turf, made by Olympia Athletic, the same supplier to the new Yankee Stadium, creates much faster drainage, leading to fewer rainouts.
Part of the Ford Park Events Center, Ford Fields feature 12 championship-caliber fast-pitch softball and youth baseball fields. The facility offers all-weather infields, one centralized gate and hard-covered stands with protective netting.
“The Southeast Baseball Academy holds tournaments at Ford Fields annually, which amounts to anywhere from 20-30 tournaments alone,” says Freddie Willard, director of sales, Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The United States Fastpitch Association was there last year and this year, and their very first event drew 125 teams. It was massive. This year, the response was so great, and they like the facility so much, they decided to break up the event into age groups and spread it over two weekends.”
Beaumont has another 12-field facility, Beaumont Athletic Complex, just five miles away from Ford Fields. Beaumont Athletic Complex has four pods of three fields each and can accommodate up to 1,200 people in its stadium seating.
Situated between Dallas and Austin on Interstate Highway 35, Waco is a town with location very much on its side. As it happens, they also have a number of fine softball facilities.
"The quality and quantity of our softball venues along with our hospitality and central location make Waco a premier softball destination," says Mandy Spikes, marketing and communications coordinator, Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The accommodating and knowledgeable staff at the various facilities is a prime reason why many of our yearly softball events return to our great city.”
Baylor University's Getterman Stadium offers a 1,230-seat stadium, a state-of-the-art press box and two-level press room, a control room for public address and scoreboard, and a VIP booth with theatre seating. McLennan Community College's stadium offers seating for 500, and the Dubl-R Fields at Riverbend Park is an eight-field lighted facility that can accommodate 2,000. "The natural setting of the Bosque River complements the meticulously-maintained Riverbend Park," says Spikes.
Another of the city's premier facilities, Waco ISD, features two fields and seating for 1,400. Waco ISD has a state-of-the-art sound system, a REALGRASS PRO artificial playing surface, and excellent drainage for an optimal surface no matter what the conditions.
St. Joseph, Missouri
St. Joseph prides itself on being steeped in historical significance. It’s where the Pony Express began and where Jesse James ended. It’s also a place where, all season long, softball history is made.
Heritage Park Softball Complex has become very well known throughout the Midwest. Since its completion in April of 2003, Heritage Park has been home to a remarkable array of events, from national championships and amateur softball regionals, to the Air National Guard National Tournament, NCAA Championships and thousands of youth and adult league tournaments and games.
Recently awarded Complex of the Year by the Amateur Softball Association, Heritage Park includes four 300 foot and one 250 foot fully irrigated fields, along with covered dugouts, scoreboards, and state-of-the-art MUSCO lighting systems. The Championship field has permanent chair back seating for 400+ and another 1,200 bleacher-style seating.
Opening this year, Missouri Western Sports Complex is St. Joseph’s newest softball field, and Griffon Indoor Sports Complex offers another exceptional facility: an 80,000-square-foot indoor practice field built to host the Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp beginning the summer of 2010. With rubber infill, monofilament Astro Turf, six retractable batting/hitting cages and netting, the field can accommodate two simultaneous softball games.
“The First State is renowned for its vast array of visitor attractions, all within easy driving distance from any point in the state,” says Matt Sparks, executive director, Delaware Sports Commission.
Delaware has several significant softball facilities located throughout the state. The Midway Girls Softball Complex located in New Castle County serves more than 350 athletes each year and is home to the annual Delaware Invitational, a recruiting showcase for universities across the country. In Kent County, Delaware’s central county, Schutte Park Softball Complex features four lighted fields and hosts a number of youth, masters and senior tournaments throughout the season.
“There is a great deal of American history in Kent County and Dover, Delaware’s capital” says Sparks, “so it’s a good opportunity for families to enjoy America’s heritage.”
The Lower Sussex Little League Complex is situated in Sussex, Delaware’s southernmost county, and features six lighted playing surfaces--three are all skinned. Primarily a youth complex, Lower Sussex is also home to the Senior League World Series of Softball. “This international sporting event showcases Delaware which is proudly viewed across the nation on ESPNU,” says Sparks.
Sussex County also happens to line the Atlantic Ocean with 26 miles of pristine beaches.
With 32 fields in the local area, Findlay/Hancock County has no shortage of softball opportunities. The Marathon Diamond is Findlay-Hancock’s feature softball destination, offering five fields, one with a grass infield, as well as stadium seating, central concessions and a strong commitment to maintaining the best softball fields possible.
“Not only are these fields just incredibly well maintained, they’re also right off the highway and really close to all of the hotels and amenities our community has to offer,” says Angela Crist, director, Hancock County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We get constant positive feedback about The Diamonds, and it’s a public/private partnership, which is a really great thing for us.”
It’s that partnership that ensures everyone in Hancock County gets involved in making visitors feel welcome and sports events see big success. They just wrapped up the Under-16 Ohio ASA tournament, an event that drew 60 teams and great reviews from players and coaches.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
“Geographically, Colorado Springs is a premier destination for sports simply because east and west coast athletes can travel here with ease,” says Cheryl McCullough, sales manager, sports and special events, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it’s also that there are a lot of things to see and do while you’re here playing. With over 60 attractions in the Pikes Peak region, and over 14,000 hotel rooms with many economical options, people love to come here to compete in a variety of sports, and they love to stay for vacation.”
Colorado Springs has over 120 baseball/softball fields in a variety of dimensions that can accommodate youth, teen and adult softball tournaments. The majority of those fields are located within city parks with one city facility offering eight fields. The El Pomar Youth Sports Park has nine baseball/softball fields also offering a variety of dimensions to accommodate youth and teen tournaments.
Investing in Softball’s Future
The sport of softball might be seeking to regain its international stage, but at home in the U.S., it’s a sport with great security. Communities all across the country continue to invest in building and renovating softball facilities in order to accommodate and retain the constantly growing events.
Kissimmee, Florida is just one example. The city has just committed to improving the fields at one of its feature softball facilities, Oren Brown Park, to create the capacity its current events require to grow. As part of these renovations, the city is enhancing field drainage, removing existing grass and installing Bermuda field turf, leveling the field and installing an outfield irrigation system, all at a cost of $170,000.
As softball continues its strong hold on the hearts of American athletes, look for softball facilities throughout the nation to become newer, better and bigger all the time.