‘Source of pride’

When the State Softball Tourney comes to town, so do the economic benefits

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Tristin Doster of Fort Dodge reacts after scoring against Urbandale during class 5A regional finals.

Home runs that get belted over the fences at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex during the State Softball Tournament won’t be the only action worth cheering about in Fort Dodge and Webster County.

The tournament, which begins Monday, brings significant economic benefits to the Fort Dodge area, according to Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

“Everybody from retail to wholesale to food and lodging, gasoline, campgrounds,” he said. “There’s a lot of benefit to be shared with an event like this.”

According to Kerrie Kuiper, the executive director of the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fort Dodge should expect between15,000 and 20,000 visitors for the five days of the tournament.

In 2017, the overall attendance was 16,701.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Kerrie Kuiper, Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, and Connie Lind-Fraher, visitors service director, walk past the ball diamonds at the Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex. Between regular baseball and softball games, Girls State, and other events, Kuiper said about 50 percent of visitors to Fort Dodge will come through the park.

The estimated economic impact is between $1 million and $1.3 million for the five-day period, Kuiper said.

“The tournament is a very strong week for us. It’s also a very big source of pride for the community. Harlan Rogers is a wonderful facility. It’s a tradition. The best softball players in Iowa come to Harlan Rogers to play.”

Ernie Goss, the MacAllister Chair and professor of economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates that if a family spends $200 a day on food and lodging during the tournament, $160 distributes into other industries.

Plautz said the impacts could vary based on what teams advance in the tournament.

“If you have a lot of local teams that stay in the tournament for a while you would probably have less overnight lodging than if you had teams from the Quad Cities or Des Moines that were coming and playing every day,” Plautz said. “Then your lodging would be up and your restaurants and your retail sales. So it’s variable in terms of who is in the tournament what the benefits are, but it clearly is significant.”

Schools from Des Moines, Iowa City, Waterloo, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Spirit Lake, are among the teams that will be in town for the tournament.

Fort Dodge is home to the longest-tenured state tournament venue for any boys or girls sport in the state, and the city works hard to keep it that way, according to Kuiper.

Some of the visiting teams stay at Iowa Central Community College, which is one factor that contributes to the tournament remaining in Fort Dodge, Kuiper said.

“There’s quite a few players that allow us to host this,” Kuiper said. “Fort Dodge Parks and Rec do a wonderful job, upkeeping the fields. Those staff are key. Also the investments the city makes in improving the park. We have to have one of the best facilities in the state. The contributions that Iowa Central Community College makes. Many of the teams stay out there. They have some of their meals out there. That’s key to our ability to host the tournament.”

Plautz added, “We should be very appreciative and thankful for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the city of Fort Dodge, and Iowa Central Community College. That’s part of the total community commitment that helps the tournament coming back every year.”

Plautz said the tournament is an opportunity to showcase the city and its people.

“I would hope the citizens of Fort Dodge create a great impression for visitors who are coming and seeing Fort Dodge on a less than regular basis and many even on a first time basis,” he said. “I hope we are very welcoming. I hope we are hospitable and give a good appearance to our city.”