Bluffton to host Dixie Youth softball world series

Softball teams from across the southern U.S. will meet in Bluffton later this month for the Dixie Youth Softball World Series.

The five-day tournament begins July 26 and will wrap up July 31, weather permitting. Games will be played at Oscar J. Frazier Park in Bluffton and streamed live and on demand at The County Channel.

County officials have high hopes for the tournament, which is expected to attract hundreds of visitors to the region.

"We are honored to have been selected again to host such a large athletic event. The last World Series event hosted in Beaufort County introduced thousands of new visitors to the Lowcountry and was a boost to our local economy," Scott Marshall, the county's Parks and Leisure Services director, said in a statement.

"With everyone's help, we think we can build on our previous experience and make this a memorable event for players, fans and the people of Beaufort County."

It's not immediately clear where all those people will stay.

Brandy Gray, sales manager at Holiday Inn Express in Bluffton, said she's nearly sold out during that stretch and doesn't have enough rooms to accommodate even one of the teams.

"We're already full. It's July at the beach," she said, adding that several teams have called recently.

Potentially making matters worse, the tournament coincides with the second weekend of the Beaufort Water Festival, when Gray says there typically isn't a vacant hotel room in Beaufort.

"I think it's a great idea, and it's great that they are coming, but it's not going to benefit us," she said.

Assuming those families find a place to stay, any event that draws thousands of people to the region is bound to help local businesses, said Shellie West Hodges of the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

"They are using the restaurants, and they are going shopping," she said. "It's definitely beneficial to businesses in the area."

Charlie Clark, spokeswoman for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

"It's really great for our area to have people discover the area that might not have come before," she said. "It definitely has a positive impact on the business community."

The average economic impact of local sports tournaments ranges from $77 to $200 a person a day, according to The Sport Journal, a publication of the U.S. Sports Academy.

It was not clear Thursday where the teams competing in the tournament are from. A phone call to the Dixie Softball headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., was not returned Thursday.

Oscar J. Frazier Park hosted the 2008 Dixie Junior Boys World Series for 13-year-olds, and the 2011 Dixie Boys World Series for 13 and 14-year-olds was held at Burton Wells Park near Beaufort.

It's not clear how much, if any, it will cost the county to host the tournament. County spokeswoman Joy Nelson was unable to provide that information Thursday.

The cost would be defrayed by volunteers working concession stands, keeping score and announcing the games, Nelson said. Host families also are needed for some players.

Last year, many of the more than 200 volunteers came from the University of South Carolina Beaufort, and the county is optimistic just as many people from the school will help this year.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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