American Southwest Conference Softball Championship Tournament Moving to Lewisville's Railroad Park
22 Mar, 2010
American Southwest Conference, a member of NCAA Division III, has reached a three-year agreement to hold its annual softball championship tournament at the new Railroad Park athletic complex in Lewisville, Texas, starting in April 2010.
The ASC tournament will be the first major softball event held at Lewisville's new four-field complex, which opened in November 2009. League and city officials expressed excitement over the agreement.
"Both the Lewisville Parks and Leisure Services staff and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have been exceptional in working with the American Southwest Conference staff to bring our conference softball tournament to Lewisville," conference commissioner Amy Carlton said. "The ASC is excited for its softball championship to be a part of the inaugural year events at Railroad Park."
"This is a milestone for our new athletic facility, and a successful partnership for Lewisville that we hope to build on for many years to come," Lewisville Mayor Dean Ueckert said. "Bringing championship-caliber collegiate sports to Railroad Park will benefit our entire community, and I am certain that the competitors and fans from the American Southwest Conference will enjoy their visit to Lewisville."
Lewisville is a 100,000-population suburb in the heart of the vibrant North Texas market, located just 10 minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and 25 minutes from Dallas Love Field. Carlton said the new high-quality facility and its convenient central location were key draws for the conference.
"Railroad Park is an outstanding facility that will enhance the conference championship experience for ASC student-athletes, coaches and fans," she said. "Lewisville and the surrounding communities will be treated to competitive college softball as played in one of the top conferences in the country."
Both Ueckert and Carlton also pointed out the economic impact the tournament will have on Lewisville and Southern Denton County.
"Players, coaches and fans for six teams will come to Lewisville for a three-day tournament, and that will have people staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores," Ueckert said.
"The six competing tournament teams, their fans and media alone will conservatively bring over 350 people in touch with Railroad Park and Lewisville over the three-day tournament run," added Carlton.
The American Southwest Conference, headquartered in Richardson, Texas, is one of the largest NCAA Division III athletic conferences with 15 member institutions from the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Formed in May 1996, the ASC awards 16 conference championships. League titlists in 12 sports earn automatic berths in their respective NCAA Division III national tournament fields.
ASC members have won two NCAA Division III national titles -- 2008 Women's Basketball (Howard Payne) and 2008 Men's Outdoor Track and Field (McMurry) -- and national runner-up honors in women's golf, football and men's outdoor track and field. Conference members have posted top-eight finishes at Division III championships in nine sports (baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, football, softball, and men's and women's track and field).
The ASC will crown its 12th softball tournament champion during the April 29-May 1 event in Lewisville. Fourteen conference member schools sponsor softball with the top three teams from the East and West Divisions qualifying to the six-team tournament field. The winner of the ASC Softball Championship Tournament claims the conference champion title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
The University of Texas at Tyler is the defending ASC tournament champion, winning its first league title in the rain-shortened 2009 event. UT Tyler, East Texas Baptist University and Louisiana College all advanced to last season's NCAA Division III Championship playoffs. UT Tyler upended Linfield College 5-4 in eight innings to claim the regional title and a trip to the national finals, where the Patriots placed fifth.
East Texas Baptist has won a league-record five conference championships. Hardin-Simmons University and Louisiana College each have two ASC titles while Schreiner University and UT Tyler have one conference championship each.
Six conference members have made NCAA Division III Softball Championship tournament appearances since 2002. The ASC has had three teams advance to the national playoffs in each of the past three seasons (2007, '08, '09). Louisiana College (2008) and UT Tyler (2009) each have won a regional title and played in the Division III Softball Championship finals. LC placed third overall in 2008 and UT Tyler fifth last year.
Lewisville's newest athletic complex, the 269-acre Railroad Park, opened on Nov. 2 and already is drawing large crowds to its state-of-the-art outdoor sports facilities and the city's first skate park.
Construction of the park took a little more than a year and cost $20 million, making it the largest capital project in the city's history. It was paid for through a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2002 for library and park projects.
Key components of the park are four lighted baseball/softball fields with 400-foot outfield fences, including a championship field with expanded seating; eight lighted soccer fields with championship-quality hybrid turf and bleacher seating; four lighted football fields with scoreboards; three concession buildings with covered patios; three manmade lakes; a 1.5-mile walking trail; the city's first skate park; and the city's first dog park.
Railroad Park is expected to be a significant economic engine for the city in terms of sports tourism, a market that produced nearly 50,000 booked hotel-nights in Lewisville last year. In addition to the ASC softball tournament, deals already have been reached to bring the Panda Cup International Soccer Tournament to the park for three years in 2010-2012, and the Texas Fire Fighter Olympics in July 2010. Regional Amateur Tour (RAT) skateboarding will open its 2010 season at the park in March. Other major sporting events are being negotiated for all areas of the park.
Overall, between 500,000 and 1 million visitors are expected at the park annually for youth leagues, sports tournaments, special events and recreational use.
"Railroad Park will benefit our residents by giving them a great park to visit with their families, and it also will benefit our hotels and businesses by bringing thousands of visitors to Lewisville from out of town," Ueckert said. "We already are seeing positive impact from Railroad Park. That is just going to continue to grow as more people and groups find out about it."