AIKEN - Small-time sports can produce big-time profits.
While thousands of fans poured into Citizens Park earlier this month to cheer 24 baseball teams, thousands of dollars flowed into Aiken businesses during the Dixie Junior Boys World Series.
For Aiken, the amateur baseball championships proved to be the most lucrative tax-funded youth event in recent years.
Six thousand spectators packed into the $3 million, 10-field ballpark facility during the eight-day tournament that Aiken spent more than $38,000 on as host. Off the field, their presence in Aiken generated more than $700,000 of revenue - roughly $450,000 more than weekend tournaments generally earn, City Manager Roger LeDuc said. Admission fees, concession sales and sponsorships dropped $85,000 in tax revenue into city coffers.
Hotels and motels enjoyed the largest spike of revenue during the tournament.
Downtown Aiken's Days Inn experienced capacity crowds throughout the event.
"Normally, we are full like that during the Masters, and during the weekend tournaments, but this is the first time during the week that we had this much business," said Henry Patel, the general manager of Days Inn. "On that week, we had two teams; both teams went to the final, and both stayed for at least eight days."
Though the city plays host to as many as 25 smaller baseball and softball tournaments each year, the Dixie World Series pumped a larger profit into the local economy than significantly larger adult tournaments have in the past.
"It generates a little more impact for hotels and all because only the Dixie teams really go over a seven- or eight-day (tournament) period," said city Parks and Recreation Director Glenn Parker.
Much of that has to do with where teams are traveling from.
"One of the things with Dixie is it's a regional agency, from Virginia to Texas," Mr. Parker said. "Those who came all drove in. With other tournaments, they come from as far as Canada. You can't bring as many people when you have to fly."
Youth athletics events also tend to generate more tourism dollars than amateur adult tournaments.
Next month, the city will sponsor the Black America World Series, an adult amateur baseball tournament that will bring in 100 teams. Despite its size, city officials estimate the event will lure fewer than 2,000 people.
"Adult tournaments just don't draw as well," Mr. Parker said.
Aiken city officials are aggressively pursuing the Dixie Youth organization with hopes that they'll be selected as the permanent home of the youth baseball tournament within the next few years.
Alabama and Texas will play host to the series in 2005 and 2006, but Aiken officials hope the tournament will return by 2007.
"Having Aiken as the permanent site would be an honor for Aiken, and it's because of the fan and community support we received during the past World Series that Dixie would consider Aiken," Mr. Parker said.
Reach Krista Zilizi at (803) 648-1395.
8: Days the Dixie Junior Boys World Series was in Aiken
24: Baseball teams competing in the event
6,000: Number of spectators
$38,000: Amount Aiken spent to play host to the games
$85,000: Amount the city made in tax revenue
$700,000: Total revenue generated by the eventin Comparison
100: Teams that will compete in the Black America World Series, an adult amateur baseball tournament, next month
2,000: Expected spectators at the Black America World Series
$250,000: Approximate amount generated by a weekend tournament