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Financial boon expected from Little League

WARNER ROBINS — Dawn and Harold Hall of Tampa, Fla., along with their four children, a grandparent and two cousins, expect to arrive Wednesday in Warner Robins for the Little League Softball Southeastern Region Tournament.

The Halls’ daughter, 12-year-old Maddy, is a pitcher and shortstop for New Tampa Little League — the Florida state champions — and Harold Hall is one of the coaches.

The family expects to drop “nice chunk of change” into the Warner Robins area economy while in town, based on an expected four to five days of lodging, meals, gas, souvenirs and possibly an outing or two that may include a movie or bowling.

“It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Dawn Hall said. “We just want everyone to enjoy themselves and have fun.”

The Halls are not alone. At least 11 families are expected in from Tampa, Fla. alone. Those families will be joined by others from West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia as Warner Robins hosts its first Little League regional tournament. And the softball tournament is just the first of a doubleheader.

The baseball regional tournament begins Aug. 7 at newly built Little League Southeast Park.

Bob Woodruff, the manager for the Southwestern Youth Association East baseball team, the Virginia state champions, said he expects to easily spend about $100 to $150 a day on lodging and food alone. He and his son — pitcher and right-fielder Daniel, 13 — will arrive with about 50 other youth and adults from Centerville, Va., for the baseball regional Aug. 7-13.

Woodruff said he expects they’ll also be looking for ways to entertain the boys when not on the field.

Alicia Bowers, assistant manager for the recently opened Houston Lake Stadium Cinemas at 1121 Ga. 96, said she expects to pick up moviegoers from the influx of people from both tournaments.

Bowers said she also expects the GTC Galleria 15 Cinemas in Centerville, which is owned by the same company, will increase attendance because hotels where the players and families will be staying are located nearby.

Alex Combs, marketing director for the Chick-fil-A at 790 Ga. 96, said the restaurant also is expecting more patrons with the tournaments, but just how many more remains to be seen.

“It’s hard to know,” Combs said. “We’re a brand new store and this is a new event.”

But she said the restaurant is ready to adjust staffing and supplies based on how sales go the first day of the softball tournament.

The Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce is expecting great things from the tournaments — including 8,000 attendees and more than $1.7 million in projected revenue to the area.

Marsha Priest Buzzell, executive director of the Warner Robins Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the potential economic impact forecast was developed based on the impact of the Western Region Little League tournaments in San Bernardino, Calif., and in conjunction with the Houston County Development Authority.

Ed Rodriquez, president and chief executive officer for the chamber, said he believes the figures are conservative.

He also noted that there are other economic benefits that are difficult to quantify. For example, Rodriquez noted the national exposure Warner Robins is expected to receive from being named nationwide on ESPN or in newspapers across the country covering local teams.

Rodriquez said he’s talking about “destination marketing” and creating a brand associated with Warner Robins as a good place to live and raise a family — a place where companies would like to locate because of quality of life factors associated with being home to the Little League Southeastern Region Headquarters.

“Any time you have positive publicity on your community, that’s a plus,” he said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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