Marion County Sports Activities Attract Thousands
8 Jun, 2009
Three recent sports events attracted hundreds of participants and spectators to Marion County, highlighting the importance of sports-related travel to the local economy.
The Fat Tire Festival was a highly successful event organized by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association and directed by Renee Blaney. "The event took place on March 21. We had slots for 350 participants, and we were totally sold out," said Blaney. "Those who entered the event were invited to stay at the Santos Campground, and even the main parking lot was filled to capacity with well-wishers and onlookers. We used the Cross Florida Greenway as our trail."
A much larger sporting event spanned three weekends in March when the Region B Soccer Regional Playoffs were held at the Big Sun Soccer Complex of the Big Sun Youth Soccer League. "We had on average 800 kids playing for the honors on each of the three weekends," said Matt Dunn, "And with each kid you can imagine at least one, and perhaps two parents, plus friends and siblings. We actually had reports of restaurants running out of menu items during those weekends."
Thirty-six teams of softball competitors, plus their proud parents, other relatives and friends, converged on Ocala over the weekend of April 4, 2009, to play for the honors in the "April Attack" tournament organized and managed by Donald Swearington, president of the Ocala-Marion County Girls' Softball Park.
"I'm not sure of the exact count, but if each girl in the tournament brought along two parents, or just one parent and a friend or sibling, we would have had 1,296 visitors in Ocala, staying at our lodgings, eating in our restaurants, fueling their vehicles and shopping for necessities and souvenirs. That's an important contributor to our local economy, and we run these events all year ‘round," said Swearington.
The softball action continued Mother's Day weekend when dozens of District 6 girls' softball teams gathered for the "Babe Ruth All-Stars" tournament.
"Our ballpark is run by parents," Swearington continued. "We don't get any tax money nor do we receive any other support from the city or the county. Our parents raise money for improvements to the park, and they make valuable contributions of their time."