Little League tournament a baseball boost for Kingman

All Stars Tournament in South Side Park, July 2010. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

All Stars Tournament in South Side Park, July 2010. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

KINGMAN - Little League baseball tournaments can mean big business for host cities as family, friends and fans travel hundreds of miles to support their hometown all-stars.

It's not Williamsport, Pa., or even San Bernardino, Calif., and it's not the 12-year-old Majors in the TV spotlight.

Still, the 9-10-year-old Little League state tournament being held this week at Southside Park will draw 238 players and coaches, along with the usual following, who will eat at local restaurants, buy gas at local stations and perhaps stay a few nights at local motels.

With teams coming from Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales and southeast Arizona, Kingman can expect to pad its sales tax coffers by at least a few thousand dollars.

Youth sports is a $7 billion industry and can bring significant retail spending to small communities.

"That is the hope, that they'll bring in money for the city through tourism," said Leigh Pitts, administrator for Little League District 9.

Kingman is not represented in the 14-team, double-elimination tournament, which started Tuesday and continues through July 21 at Southside Park. Lake Havasu South won the District 9 championship.

Winners from Tuesday's games play tonight at 8 p.m., with two losers' bracket games at 5:30 p.m.

Josh Noble, director of Kingman's Tourism Development Commission, said a Little League state tournament held here in 2012 had a direct impact of $67,500 and total impact of $109,500 on the local economy. A state softball tournament brought in a total of $131,900 and a swim meet brought in $76,300.

The economic impact estimate weighed heavily on expenditure averages from a 2011 Community Visitor Survey, and took into consideration that some players and family may stay in Laughlin and some teams are eliminated early in the tournament.

"These tournaments are outstanding PR for Kingman," Noble said. "Many teams are traveling from much warmer communities. Our fields are greener, the spectator spaces are shadier and there are plenty of day trip opportunities after games are done."

Noble said he sees a lot of positive feedback from families who visit the Powerhouse Museum and Visitor Center during the tournaments.

Southside Park

There's something idyllic about watching baseball games at Southside Park at the end of Topeka Street.

Six fields are outlined by rugged desert cliffs, the sun sets in a multicolored palate and the chatter is occasionally drowned out by the rumbling of a passing freight train.

"One of the biggest things where our kids have the advantage is they're used to the train," Kingman Little League President Oscar Lopez said. "Other kids stop and look at the train roaring 50 feet from you. Our kids keep on playing."

The Southside Park baseball complex is one of the better parks in the state of Arizona, he said. If it had infield grass, it would match up with almost any field in the country.

But when you live in the desert, you learn to play ball on dirt.

"I basically consider Kingman Little League the heart of Route 66 baseball," Lopez said. "That's kind of our motto. It highlights the city and brings people here."

The city of Kingman provides a clean, quality facility for hosting baseball tournaments and keeps the fields well groomed, Pitts added.

"As we traveled the state for district tournaments, I told everyone in Kingman how blessed we are," Pitts said. "They have always treated us well. We can call and let them know we need a field prepared at this time and they get it done."

Four or five teams stayed in Kingman last year for the Little League Juniors (13-14-year-old) state tournament, Lopez said. He figures five or six teams will stay for the 9-10 tournament, especially those coming from Nogales and Tucson.

"They're going to spend money in the community. Kids have to eat. They're going to buy equipment. It does bring in some money to the city," Lopez said.