Babe Ruth World Series possible home run for local economy
PITTSFIELD -- The return of the Babe Ruth 16 and Under Softball World Series to Pittsfield is expected to provide a significant economic impact to the Berkshires.
And while that jolt may not be as great as some predictions, there will be significant benefits to the Berkshire economy, particularly in the hospitality field.
"The biggest impact will be for food services and drinking places," said Stephen Sheppard, a Williams College economics professor who has conducted numerous studies on the Berkshire County economy. "The second-largest impact will be the impact on hotels and lodging."
Based on rough figures on the number of visiting players and coaches that were provided to The Eagle by the World Series Committee, Sheppard believes the economic impact to the Berkshires from this year's tournament likely will be in the $400,000 range.
That's significantly lower than the $2.1 million that the national Babe Ruth organization has said was generated in 2008, when the Berkshires last hosted the tournament.
"That seems a little high," Sheppard said.
Babe Ruth Commissioner Rob Connor did not respond to an email message seeking comment on the organization's economic calculations.
But based on how this year's tournament is set up, there are probably more opportunities than in 2008 for visitors to make an economic impact on the Berkshires.
This year's tournament, which takes place at Pittsfield's Doyle Athletic Complex from Wednesday to Aug. 5, will consist of 15 teams, compared with the 10 squads that participated last time.
And, unlike 2008, all the participating teams will stick around for the entire week. Teams that are eliminated from championship contention will play for a separate trophy, the Commissioner's Cup, said Thomas Murphy, the president of Pittsfield Girls Softball League, the tournament's host organization.
Finally, Murphy said the Babe Ruth organization has required that all the players on this year's visiting teams must stay in official lodging establishments. In 2008, players were given the option of staying with host families.
Murphy said all 14 visiting teams will be housed at three Berkshire lodging establishments -- Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, the Berkshire Mountain Lodge in Pittsfield, and The Springs Econo Lodge in New Ashford. As of Friday, Jiminy Peak had the highest number of participants, with eight teams slated to occupy 75 rooms. Each team consists of 12 to 15 players, and has two to three coaches, Murphy said.
"That was our goal from the outset," Murphy said, about housing all the visiting players and coaches in the Berkshires. "We wanted them to be close. We had New York state as an option, but we're glad we didn't have to do that."
The committee had to pay a $45,000 fee to the Babe Ruth organization in order to host this year's tournament, Murphy said. But the committee has received plenty of community support.
Murphy said the committee has received between $7,000 and $8,000 in advertising revenue so far, and lined up five $5,000 level sponsors -- MountainOne Financial Partners, Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, the Guardian Berkshire Life Insurance Co. and the High Meadow Foundation, which is run by the Fitzpatrick family.
"They were the primary sponsors," Murphy said. "We have a number of different ones at levels lower than that."
In 2008, the tournament's major sponsor was Wal-Mart, which contributed $52,000, but signed up shortly before the tournament began. This year, Murphy said the support has been spread "fairly wide" across the Berkshire business community.
"There's more engagement across the businesses," he said. "We started early. We identified opportunities earlier. We started reaching out a long time ago. Some of those first meetings took place last fall."
"We've been a consistent sponsor for this event," said John Bissell, the executive vice president of the Greylock Federal Credit Union. "We feel very impressed by the level of athleticism of these athletes as well as the level of volunteerism. We like to promote things like that anyway."
Murphy said the committee has received a boost from the city of Pittsfield, which has helped improve the facilities at the Doyle Athletic Complex, and from Haddad Auto Group, which is providing vehicles for the teams to use.
He said the committee also is providing the visiting teams with information on shopping opportunities in the Berkshire.
"A significant portion of the stores along the Route 7 corridor have provided us with ads in the program," he said.
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