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Triple Crown hopes to stick around

As local streets and fields bustle with young softball standouts from across the Western United States, the Triple Crown World Series and the Park City Chamber of Commerce are closing in on an agreement to keep the tournament in Summit County for 10 more years.

"I think we’ve pretty much got a contract 95 percent on paper, and I would say within the next two or three weeks we’ll have a signed contract," said Triple Crown World Series (TCWS) director Bill Walters ahead of Saturday’s championship games for 12-and-under and 10-and-under divisions.

The three-week girls’ fastpitch tournament began in 1996 in Fort Collins and moved to Park City in 2003. Its popularity reached a peak of about 360 teams in 2007, but attendance has since declined about 10 percent each year. Accompanying the decline in teams is steadying declining revenue for the county, but Walters said there isn’t much his organization can do except wait out the tough economic climate. TCWS expanded its marketing reach to the Pacific Northwest this year and has drawn a few new teams, but it hasn’t halted the slide.

"I think the economy’s still an issue," said Walters, who has run fastpitch tournaments for more than 30 years. "A lot of our teams come from Southern California and Arizona, and those are two states that have high unemployment. I’ve noticed that, especially at this age, the 10s and 12s, which typically travel with 50 to 60 people, it’s more like 40 people. There’s kids coming without mom and dad, or families coming with just mom or just dad instead of both."

Walters said more teams are choosing to attend national events within two or three hundred miles of home. The draw for his event, he said, is more about the location than the competition (though many Division I coaches will be in attendance to court the tournament’s older players).

"The teams love it here," Walters said. "A lot of these teams come from 100-plus degree environments, and so they come up here and the weather’s great, they love the mountains, the lodging, the things to do. I talked to a couple coaches from Southern Cal the other day who took some heat for coming here instead of going to a national tournament in Tennessee, and they told us that, ‘Who would want to go to Tennessee instead of here?’"

Teams also benefit from the full-time nature of TCWS, he said, citing the availability of staff and organizers at all times. The organization provides its own umpires and grounds crews, and the only local support it receives comes from the Summit County Silver Strikers, who work to pay off their $850 entry fee for the 14-and-under tournament.

As for Park City’s side of the symbiotic relationship, Walters said that hotels and restaurants receive a significant boost. In the last seven years, TCWS has also pumped between $30,000 and $40,000 into projects at local facilities, including new infields and backstops in Coalville and improvements to the sidewalks in Oakley.

"We help improve the facilities for our tournament and then it helps the local programs also," Walters said.

Games for the bottom two age divisions are now complete and the next wave, 14-and-under teams, will sweep across the county on Monday. An opening ceremony will be held on Main Street at 5 p.m., and the teams will compete in a skills contest Tuesday at Quinn’s Junction.

The Silver Strikers played twice in Coalville after The Record went to press against the California Waves. The team also plays at 8 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday at Quinn’s Junction.

Winners in the two 10-and-under age divisions were Team Anderson 99 from Buena Park, Calif., and Central Valley Freeze from Tulare, Calif. The 12-and-under champions were AZ Dynasty from Goodyear, Ariz., and Suncats 98 from Oro Valley, Ariz.


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