Lions Field.jpg

Waconia will host the state amateur baseball tournament beginning next month. (Submitted photo)

Baseball is big business, generating more than $3.6 billion in revenue annually at the major league level for teams through ticket revenues, broadcast rights, concessions, apparel and accessories. Not to mention the restaurant, bar, lodging and parking tabs from fans visiting cities where their teams play.

Town baseball is more about love of the game, but the state amateur baseball tournament coming up next month in Waconia, Chaska and Hamburg is expected to provide a bump to business and benefit the host communities.

“As far as economic impact, local baseball parks and organizations probably gain the biggest advantages,” said Gary Schleper, board member with the Minnesota Baseball Association, which evaluates and selects tournament host sites every three years. “In the community, the largest direct benefactors of this tournament most likely will be gas stations, bars and restaurants, along with the hotel industry.”

Depending on weather and team following, Waconia and neighboring co-host communities could welcome some 20,000 baseball fans over the three weekends of the state amateur baseball tournament, which begins Aug. 20 and concludes on Labor Day.

That figure is in the ballpark with attendance at Waconia’s own Nickle Dickle Day event, the one-day festival held downtown each September.

“Any time you attract a crowd like that to a community is good for business,” says Christine Fenner, Waconia Chamber of Commerce president. So, expect baseball-themed promotions from local businesses in the coming weeks.

“The business community is thrilled to have Waconia as a host site for the state tournament,” she said. “We’re proud of this town and welcome the fans from all around the state for baseball! It brings the community together, and we encourage the fans to stay and discover all that Waconia has to offer.”

Like the Governor’s Fishing Opener hosted by Waconia in 2012, the baseball tournament is a chance to showcase a community as a destination for other visitors.

Waconia’s Lions Field has already done that.

A “raise the grandstand” campaign launched in 2015 led to completion of the project in 2017 that helped Waconia win a bid for state tournament hosting duties. Since then, the Waconia baseball community has worked with the city, the school and other local organizations to turn Lions Field into a destination for amateur baseball.

The exposure has already been a boon to Lions Field

The field got rave reviews for hosting the Gopher Classic, July 7-9, which brought in top teams from around the nation’s mid-section, and the Waconia Baseball Association has received many overtures from other organizations about hosting tournaments, according to Chris Ohm, vice president of the Waconia Baseball Association.

“Upgrades at a park may be costly at the time, but usually get paid off through advertising dollars along with concession and apparel sales during the tournament,” Schleper said.

Hosting a tournament includes other investments as well, such as merchandise, baseballs, umpires and other costs, not to mention time, Ohm notes. But he says tournament revenues can be channeled back to the association to make for a better program.

“Once you host a big event like this, you end up getting many other opportunities to host different types of tournaments which all generate revenue, not only for the baseball park, but throughout the community by bringing in fans from all over the state,” Schleper said. “And now that you have invested in all these upgrades, you won’t have the big expenses for future tournaments as well.

Naturally, having a host team in a tournament is a draw in turning out fans, and the local Crow River League is expected to have four entries, so there’s a strong chance for a local attraction. It also helps to have popular visiting teams from other locations with a strong fan following to bring in distant visitors.

And so, as they make final preparations and the tournament nears, organizers are keeping an eye on scoreboards around the state to see what teams will be coming so they can showcase their ballparks.

“It’s pretty well known that there are many wonderful baseball parks throughout the state of Minnesota, and I believe the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament has had a direct effect on that,” Schleper said. “It has become a friendly competition with supporters and organizers willing to share how they did this or how they did that to better their parks. It’s really amazing how good these fields are. We are lucky.”

Load comments