Making its pitch: Triple Crown enters last year of contract
When the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series arrives in Summit County on Monday, city officials will be paying close attention to the economic impact of the three-week softball extravaganza.
In the final year of its contract with the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, the tournament has seen a decline in the number of teams competing since reaching a high-water mark in 2007 – when 346 teams injected between $8 and $9 million into the local economy, according to estimates from the Chamber/Bureau.
The event attracted 318 teams and generated $8 million in 2008, and last year’s figures dipped to 270 teams and just $6.8 million. Despite the decline, city officials believe they will likely renew the contract provided Triple Crown assures them it will undertake a vigorous marketing effort. Negotiations are under way for a five-year deal with a five-year option for the city.
"We want to see the numbers stay up," said Chamber/Bureau director of special events Bob Kollar. "That’s one of our concerns, that Triple Crown keeps it attractive for out-of-state teams."
Twenty-four teams participated in the first Triple Crown World Series during its inaugural year in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1995. It moved to Park City in 2003 and has been a staple for lodging and dining businesses ever since.
"The local economy benefits from people staying overnight," said Park City Municipal special events coordinator Max Paap. "That’s why we want to have them here."
Although Summit County’s other major private sports tournaments – the Park City Extreme Cup soccer tournament and the Ski Town Shootout lacrosse tournament – have experienced dramatic growth in recent years, Kollar points out that both started from the ground level, whereas the Triple Crown was already a major tournament when it moved to Utah.
"I don’t think it’s specifically Triple Crown," Kollar said. "I think the economic climate has affected all the events."
Kollar said a 2008 increase in gas prices likely priced out many families and teams that would have otherwise made the trip.
Triple Crown, which did not return calls from The Record by press time, estimated in a news release that about 300 teams would attend this year’s event, which would mark a 10 percent increase over 2009.
Lasting from July 12 until July 31, the tournament will utilize fields throughout Summit County – in Oakley, Kamas, Francis, Treasure Mountain International School, Park City High School, Snyderville Basin, and one week in City Park.
"They typically also have to play a few games down in the valley during the opening rounds," Paap said, although efforts will be made to limit those instances.
Competitors come to Summit County in three waves. The first week will involve girls in U-12 and U-10 age divisions; week two will be for girls under 14; and week three will have U-16 and U-18 teams.
"The younger age girls tend to travel with more family members," Kollar said. "The 16-18 group has the most teams, but less people per athlete."
Local residents can expect increased traffic, less parking, and drivers who are unfamiliar with the roads. The summer construction season, just getting started after delays caused by late-spring precipitation, could add to the mayhem.
"Construction projects are coming hot and heavy," Paap said. "But we understand there’s only so much time they can do these things."
Continuing a tradition that began on Main Street in 2008, Triple Crown will host parades on each Monday for the new arrivals. Main Street merchants complained during the first year of parades, leading organizers to tinker with the schedule and better inform store owners in 2009. Fewer problems were reported, but the streets remained extremely congested.
"On Monday nights from 4 to 7, it’s probably not a good time to get your mail," Paap said.
Tournament entrants will also take part in skills contests, all-star games and a showcase game, in addition to rafting, horseback riding and barbecues.
This story ran in the July 10 edition of The Record.
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