If one world series is good, the Lower Sussex Little League Complex believes two will be even better.
Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper joined with officials from Little League International on Monday to formally announce that the Big League Softball World Series tournament will be coming to the Roxana complex, where the Senior League Softball World Series has been held since 2004.
"For us to get this additional tournament is amazing," Markell said. "Little League International has a total of [eight] World Series tournaments [and now] Delaware is going to have two of them. From an economic development perspective alone … this is huge. But it goes so far beyond that. This is a point of pride to our state. Working together, those girls and us, are really going to knock it out of the park."
Little League officials said both tournaments would be played simultaneously from Aug. 4 to Aug. 11. The semi-finals and championship games from each tournament will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Delaware Economic Development Director Alan Levin said the dual tournaments are expected to add more than $2.5 million to the local economy.
"What it means for this region is outstanding, from the national television coverage to the restaurants seeing strangers coming in the door to the resorts and entertainment opportunities," he said. "Most importantly, this is a very positive environment for the kids."
Terri Wyatt, the wife of Georgetown Mayor Mike Wyatt and the director of player relations for Senior League Softball World Series since 2004, said she's fielded calls from families almost as soon as their daughters' teams have qualified for the tournament, whether in America or internationally.
"They want to know where they can stay, what they can visit, and most of all, where they can shop," she said. "The foreign teams, especially, know they can get designer apparel at the outlets in Rehoboth and their team buses can barely hold all the bags they load up. The domestic teams also love the tax-free shopping in Delaware and many of their families use the trip as an opportunity to do some back-to-school shopping."
Georgetown native Martin Donovan, the current director of both world series tournaments, said he expects the concurrent events to draw more than 1,500 out-of-state visitors to Sussex County, including players, coaches, families and supporters. Players from the 10 teams in each tournament will be housed at a yet-to-determined facility in Georgetown.
"The biggest thing we need to ensure this year is a success is to have plenty of volunteers for everything from officiating, transportation, security, concessions and even golf cart drivers," Donovan said. "Each Little League in Sussex County provides volunteers but we need about 150 to make it work, so we're hoping to get the entire community involved."
The addition of the Big League Softball World Series also means a team from Sussex County will get a shortcut to play in both 10-team tournaments. According to Little League International rules, the host district gets to send one team straight to the tournament, without having to first win a regional championship.
Page 2 of 2 - The Big League Softball World Series for 17- and 18-year-old girls had been held in Kalamazoo, Mich., since 1994, but Little League officials there opted not to continue hosting the tournament, citing declines in attendance, demands on volunteers and a change in district-level leadership.
Little League International officials said they chose to relocate the tournament to the Lower Sussex Little League Complex based on the success the facility has had hosting the Senior League Softball World Series for girls ages 14 to 16.
"Part of convincing businesses to come, grow and stay in your state, or a tournament like world series softball, frankly, is to let them know you love them, that you're welcoming, hospitable and gracious, and boy, that's what we do here in Sussex," U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said Monday. "This is a big deal for a little state. I'm very, very proud and grateful to everyone who helped make this happen."
Attendance at all Little League World Series games is free, including the championships.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the tournaments is asked to contact Donovan at (302) 745-2551.