WARNER ROBINS -- Cleats packed with Georgia’s red clay walking across clean floors mean a lot more chicken biscuit and sandwich sales for the Chick-fil-A on Ga. 96 as the Little League Southeastern Region tournaments approach.
The restaurant is located down the road from the Flint Energies Sports Complex, where Warner Robins American Little League plays, as well as Little League International’s Southeastern Region headquarters.
Wednesday, softball teams and their families from eight states will roll into town for the Southeastern Region softball tournament.
Aug. 5, eight more teams and their families will arrive for the baseball tournament.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed.
Owner/operator Pat Braski estimated sales at his Chick-fil-A restaurant -- which opened in January 2010, just months before the first regional tournament was held in Warner Robins -- should jump by as much as 10 to 15 percent because of Little League.
Sales begin to climb as the WRALL teams hit the field and continue to increase with a boost when the softball and baseball regional tournaments swing into play, Braski said.
“It creates an energy for this whole community,” said Braski, a longtime supporter of athletics.
‘Huge financial impact’
Chick-fil-A is just one of the many businesses impacted by the regional tournaments. Marsha Priest Buzzell, executive director of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, said she conservatively estimates the impact of the regional tournaments at nearly $4.37 million.
“It’s a huge financial impact,” said Buzzell.
Buzzell has helped put together a welcome bag for each member of every team that includes a city map, restaurant coupons, a list of restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and churches, as well as a hub-and-spoke map that includes city and regional attractions.
Many family members of the teams are expected to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is located on North Willie Lee Parkway next door to the Hampton Inn, where many of the coaches and team members stay, said Amber Blurton, director of sales for the hotel.
The Hampton is part of the Hilton family, and the Hilton, a national sponsor of Little League, offers discounts on rooms and contributes a percentage of room-rental sales to Little League, Blurton said. Some of the families also stay at the Hampton.
In addition to increased revenue, the tournaments allow for Hilton Garden Inn staff to interact with guests in a different way than with the hotel’s business patrons who are in town typically Mondays through Thursdays, Blurton said.
In 2010, hotel staff decorated the doors of every family of a team member and put up tournament brackets in the lobby.
“It was fun for us,” Blurton said. “It allows us to participate even though we’re at the hotel.”
Being located less than two miles from the hotels probably doesn’t hurt Fatz Cafe, located at 2715 Watson Blvd., either.
“It’s huge,” David Shaver, Fatz general manager, said of the impact of the regional tournaments on the Warner Robins economy. He estimated sales at his restaurant spike from about 5 percent to 8 percent when the regional tournaments are in play.
Economic reach is far
Lane Southern Orchards near Fort Valley also benefits from the regional tournaments.
“Yeah, it helps business,” Wendy Barton, the peach and pecan grower’s marketing director, said with a laugh. “Anybody we can get through those doors is good for business.”
Joking aside, Barton said, many of the team members and their families visited Lane Southern Orchards during down time between games last year to have lunch or take tours of the orchard.
Some also took advantage of Lane’s shipping, Barton said, sending home fresh peaches. Peach bread and cinnamon pecan bread were also popular items, she said. A few even asked if the peach ice cream, which also is sold at the Southeastern Region concession stands, could be shipped, she said.
“People often ask us that,” Barton said. “We haven’t quite figured that out. We’ve tried, and it didn’t work.”
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.