GREENVILLE, North Carolina (July 2, 2021) - Greenville, North Carolina is preparing to host its first Little League Softball World Series (LLSWS) this upcoming August, which is expected to generate several million dollars in economic impact over the next five years. Following a thorough search and evaluation, the Little League International staff selected to host the LLSWS with Greenville Little League and the City of Greenville as part of a five-year agreement.
“The Greenville community proved to be able to provide an all-encompassing event atmosphere with ready-to-use, top-notch facilities, various community amenities and accommodations, and a welcoming and supporting community,” said Sara Thompson, Little League director of softball development.
The agreement was originally expected to begin in 2020; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was cancelled. The five-year agreement will begin this year, with a lingering impact from the pandemic. The Little League International Board of Directors approved a plan that incorporates a series of COVID-19 mitigation measures to host these tournaments in a healthy, responsible environment. This includes hosting 10 teams from the United States. Typically, there are 12 teams from all over the world. The 2021 tournament will take place at Stallings Stadium at Elm Street Park from August 11-18. During this timeframe in 2021, the LLSWS is expected to generate more than $750,000 in tourism spending.
“In 2022, with 12 teams from around the world, we expect an even larger economic impact. Right now, we’re estimating that at $1.2 million dollars,” said Gray Williams, executive director of Play Greenville, NC. “This will boost our economy for local business, help to create local jobs, and most importantly help us in the recovery period we are entering after the COVID-19 crisis.”
In addition to hosting the tournament for, at least, the next five years, Williams believes it could have a variety of long-lasting impacts.
“You have no idea who is potentially looking to relocate a business, begin a startup, or move their family here,” said Williams.
She says this estimate also has a macro impact, such as having many first-time travelers to Greenville. This exposes them to the Greenville and ECU communities for repeat travel.
“While the tournament itself will bring tourism dollars to our community, you really can’t put a cost estimate on the world-wide recognition that our community will receive,” said Steve Weathers, president and CEO of the Greenville ENC Alliance. “It’s truly a priceless opportunity that’s just as important as the financial gain.”
Weathers, a certified economic developer with nearly 30 years of experience in economic development across the nation, says this event will help to put Greenville, North Carolina on the map.
“With international media and sports coverage expected over the next five years, the tournament will put Greenville on a national platform,” said Weathers. “It’s an opportunity for us to share the story that Greenville is a great place to do business. Throughout my career, I’ve seen several companies expand or relocate to cities because they were exposed to the community due to events just like this.”
Visit Greenville, NC president and CEO, Andrew Schmidt agrees, saying it’s an opportunity that allows the entire world to watch Greenville, North Carolina.
“Hosting an international sporting event will solidify Greenville as a legitimate sports tourism destination within the United States and open new opportunities to host additional regional and national tournaments,” said Schmidt.
Preparations for this year’s event started in 2020 with the establishment of a host committee.
“Community volunteers are working diligently to ensure an incredible tournament experience for players and their families,” said Schmidt. “I look forward to the outstanding competition that we will experience hosting some of the best softball players from around the world and showcasing Greenville to the athletes, their family members, coaches, and umpires.”
The Greenville community is no stranger to softball. There are dozens of teams in the area through local youth leagues and the Pitt County Girls Softball League. In addition, the Division 1 team at East Carolina University is thrilled about the opportunity to have this tournament in Greenville as the world celebrates the sport of softball.
“I’m looking forward to Greenville being the center of the softball world for the Little League Softball World Series in August. Stallings Stadium at Elm Street Park is one of the finest Little League facilities in the entire country and we’re looking forward to having ECU Softball involved in any way we can,” said Shane Winkler, ECU softball head coach.
Winkler was named the head coach this past May, becoming the fifth head coach in ECU softball history. He comes to Pirate Nation following a three-year stint as head coach at George Washington University.
“This is a great opportunity for the City of Greenville and for our program to have all these great young athletes here at the same time,” added Winkler. “I can’t think of a better way to end the summer!”
Sports tourism in the Greenville and Pitt County area has already made a big impact in recent months, with help from ECU Athletics and collegiate sporting events. Between April and June 2021, sports tourism events held in Greenville-Pitt County generated over $5 million in estimated economic impact. This included the NCAA D1 Women’s Soccer 1st and 2nd round games, and the NCAA D1 Baseball Regional both hosted at ECU, the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association Kepner Cup hosted by the Pitt Greenville Soccer Association, along with several US Softball Association sanctioned tournaments, cornhole tournaments, tennis tournaments, and more.
“The City of Greenville is filled with accommodations to fulfill the needs of visitors from all over the world and provides a balance of front-porch hospitality and the amenities of a metropolitan university town. We look forward to welcoming our players, volunteers, and families from a variety of communities and backgrounds to Greenville to be a part of the Little League Softball experience like never before,” said Thompson.
Since 1974, the LLSWS has provided girls with a meaningful experience to interact with their peers and compete against communities from around the world. For each of Little League’s seven World Series tournaments, the communities that these events are held in play a pivotal role in providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The partnership with Greenville and Pitt County is valued by Thompson and the Little League organization.
“We are very excited to work alongside the great volunteers at Greenville Little League, the City of Greenville, and the Greenville-Pitt County Sports Commission to continue to provide this unique opportunity to more than a hundred young female athletes from around the world each year,” added Thompson. “We are so excited to call Greenville the new home of our iconic softball event as we look ahead to a fun and exciting future together.”
As Greenville’s LLSWS host committee prepares for the tournament in August, the community is encouraged to get involved as well. The Play Greenville, NC organization is hoping that local businesses will utilize their signage to create a message that welcomes the tournament participants. Other businesses, such as retail shops and restaurants, have the opportunity to offer special discounts to those associated with the event. To learn more about ways to get involved as a community member, local leader, or volunteer, reach out to the Play Greenville, NC office: 252-329-4200, email@example.com
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