“Searcy has been trying to break through the travel baseball tournament scene for two years,” according to Searcy Recreational Sports League Inc. Director Rigel Page, and he believes $49,840 in advertising and promotions tax revenue will help the city to do that.
Page requested the funding from the Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission for two-day youth travel baseball tournaments to be held in partnership with 2D Sports, which hosts tournaments at venues throughout Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Florida.
The Saturday and Sunday tournaments are planned for March 11-12, April 9-10, April 23-24, May 14-15, May 28-29, June 4-5 and June 18-19 at the Searcy Sports Complex.
“Promises made by USSSA [United States Special Sports Association] never came to fruition, and reliable evidence of sabotage has been presented,” Page said in his application. With 2D Sports, “the initial investment will get teams to Searcy and let them see how we can better serve them.”
He said that the tournaments are expected to generate $140,000 in spending in the area, and, “pending success, will bring an additional $100,000 in the fall and increasing possibilities in future years.”
Page said at Tuesday’s meeting of the A&P Commission that 2D Sports is based in Louisiana and has 33 tournaments “playing” in Arkansas right now.
“I talked to the state director last night and he really thought Burns Park [in North Little Rock] was going to be the flagship for the state, and it turns out that Searcy is,” he said.
For Searcy’s first tournament, Page said he already has 25 teams signed up. “I’ve got three [others] pretty well committed.”
He said the reason this has happened is because he has taken a two-step approach. “No. 1, we’ve got to get people here, and that’s what a lot of the funds will be for, is getting people here; we’ve got to get them here and then we’ve got to make this experience great.”
When it comes to getting teams to come to Searcy to play, Page said there is nothing like free. “You tell people that their team doesn’t have to pay for a tournament, that saves them anywhere from $300 and $400 in most tournaments in the state.”
Page said he went ahead and announced that the first tournament in Searcy would be free. The second tournament also would be completely free for teams and the next two tournaments would be “essentially half-price.”
“You’re looking at Cabot and Conway, which are the two leaders in this area,” he said. “I looked at what they got. They have around 30 teams. We’ve already made an impact with a completely new organization.”
He said for the seven tournaments, if 30 teams come to Searcy, that would be about $30,000 that the teams wouldn’t have to pay to participate.
“People will still pay gate, no matter what,” he said. “People don’t really like to do that necessarily, but if we have some raffles, things like that, you can drop your name in and your team might win a $300 bat or whatever it might be.
“Related to that, I’ve also talked to some local businesses that we can set up something fun like a home run derby. If you hit a home run, I’ve got a $5 Sonic gift card for you. Just little things like that that are not done at these other tournaments. Make it more family friendly, just more fun.”
Page also talked about having a shuttle, particularly for the elderly so they wouldn’t have to walk far to get to the fields. He mentioned using a six-seat shuttle that could pick them up.
The customer service staff who would run the shuttle would not be a tremendous expense, he said, but it is something to consider. Also, the field staff/ground staff was brought up. Page said he had a couple of people that do that now and they are ready and take pride in what they do.
A field rake was another item discussed by Page. He said some tournament sites might not do anything to the fields until the championship game or at all. Page said the Searcy program does have a four-wheeler and drag, but he wants to drag and prepare fields between every single game so the next team coming to play has a freshly prepared field.
“That has been one of the complaints from the customer service side,” he said, adding that a 5-year-old field rake would cost around $15,000 ideally. The new ones are about $25,000, he said.
Supplying baseballs for the tournaments also was discussed. Page said teams usually have to bring their own baseballs when they go to a tournament.
“It’s just one of those things that has always kind of rubbed coaches the wrong way,” he said. “We want to provide baseballs; you don’t have to worry about that. Scorekeepers, I think this is a tremendous opportunity. We want to provide scorekeepers [so] the parents do not have to do it. The other tournaments, they pull parents, they have to do it. So that’s a big expense that I think will have big impact.”
An umpire room was mentioned as well. “I bet most of us probably have a closet in our house that’s bigger than our existing umpire room,” he said, adding that having a bigger one would benefit the city’s league. “Probably the biggest issue when we have done these tournaments is getting umpires and keeping them, so if we can make umpires have a nice place that is comfortable, that will help.”
He also mentioned an umpire bonus as an incentive for them to come to the tournament to work, show up on time, work all of their games and then come back for the next tournament. “When they step on to our field and on time, they get $100 bonus.”
He said he already has been in touch with someone who has more than 100 umpire contacts that will help Page and other organizers schedule them.
Of the things he mentioned, he said if anything needed to be cut, he would cut out the raffles and shuttle. He said those would help but if the funds had to be reduced, he would take those out.
He also talked about the need for better restrooms, and a future consideration would be deep cleaning the concession stand at Yancey Field, where American Legion baseball is played. He said an estimate to clean the concession stand would be $25,000, adding that it was “full of mold.” He said there also has been talk of knocking it down and building a new one.