Organizers are celebrating the Northern National Softball tournament, which brought 27 top Midwest girls fast-pitch teams to North Platte for a weekend of top quality softball.
Lincoln County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Lisa Burke said she heard many positive comments from players, coaches and fans, such as “Awesome tournament… the best we’ve been to.” and “Excellent facility… the best we’ve seen all year.”
And, perhaps the one that meant the most to Burke and the organizers was this -- “Great to see a tournament run by a community, not just a committee.”
Burke, assistant Muriel Clark and dozens of softball sponsors recruited volunteers from across the community to help with the tournament.
“We didn’t know for sure until we did it that we’d have enough volunteers and sponsorships to pull it off,” Burke said. "We had a large amount of volunteers, including scorekeepers,” she said. “Thank goodness.”
Burke obtained the right to hold the tournament three years ago. Since then more than $100,000 was spent to improve both the Dowhower and Cody Park softball complexes. Burke said that was the result of partnerships between the Platte Valley Girls Softball Association, the city of North Platte, Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Organizers calculate that direct spending from out-of-town attendees brought $1,398,695 into the economy of North Platte and resulted in as much as $62,717 in higher local tax revenue.
Despite those impressive numbers, it wasn’t all good news for the organizers. They were hoping for as many as 60 teams. Last year the tournament in Normal Ill. attracted 47 teams.
Only 27 came to North Platte.
Burke blames the sour economy and high price of gas. North Platte is in the far west portion of the northern ASA region. Many teams came all the way from Wisconsin, Chicago and St. Louis.
On the bright side, “the smaller number of teams enabled us to give personal attention to each of the teams competing,” Burke said. “We might not have been able to impress the teams with our ‘power of wow’ if we had had a larger number.”
The opening ceremonies were among the highlights.
“Sheltered Reality” a drum group from the First Assembly of God, put on a high-energy show that had softball players dancing. Players also competed in individual pitching and hitting competitions, and a fireworks show capped the ceremonies.
Motel rooms were not plentiful, but owners discounted their room prices by $20-40 or more, Burke said, contrary to the rumor that motel rooms were marked higher during the tournament.
Burke has not gone after another national tournament yet, but she said the success of this tournament gives her the confidence to bid for more.
Bid must be entered 2-3 years before a tournament site is selected, so it will probably be awhile until another national ASA tournament comes to North Platte.
Burke said she’s also looking to bring more sporting events to North Platte at other times, instead of the prime tourism weeks of July and early August, when motels might have even more flexibility to offer lower rates.