Softball exposure tournaments promise big boost for Chesterfield businesses
By: Carol Enright
Some of the country’s most talented young softball players will be swinging for the fences during the Women’s Softball Exposure Tournaments at the Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex (CVAC) over the next couple of weekends – and local businesses expect sales to soar.
The event, deemed among the top three nationwide, is expected attract some 250 college coaches eager to scout high school players from 18 states and Canada. The first of the two tournaments will take place Oct. 26-28 and feature 146 teams. Approximately 125 teams will participate the second weekend, Nov. 2-4, which was added this year due to high demand.
The tournaments are not about winning games, but, as the name suggests, getting exposure.
Celeste Knierim, one of three tournament directors, was the women’s softball coach at St. Louis Community College at Meramec for 30 years. She said showcase tournaments are invaluable for college coaches with little time to travel around watching high school games.
“To go and watch a couple of high school games, that takes up your whole day to watch two teams,” she said. “You go out to an exposure tournament or showcase like ours, you have 14 fields, you have 28 teams playing every hour and a half.”
Vicki Schneider, also a tournament director, said that at other big national tournaments the games are held in “so many different locations.”
“This is just one location where the coaches can come and scope out the whole complex and not worry about having to go to a different site to see a team,” said Schneider.
Area businesses are expecting to profit from a largely captive audience that will spend two weekends lodging, eating and shopping in Chesterfield and surrounding cities.
“It’s great because it fills some weekend rooms, not just for my hotel, but for others in the Chesterfield and surrounding St. Louis area,” said Jeff Barker, general manager of the Drury Plaza in Chesterfield. “Also, with Chesterfield Mall located next to us, it’s a nice boost for all the restaurants and the mall, in general.”
Barker added that the tournament comes at an opportune time for hotels.
“The fall/winter hotel market is a little bit softer than summer, obviously, so it’s been a great piece of business for hotels in the area,” he said.
In 2011, Knierim said that players, their families, coaches and umpires maxed out Chesterfield hotel rooms for 1,123 room nights and spent another 1,939 room nights at hotels in surrounding cities. Knierim estimated that this year’s two-weekend tournament will fill over 3,300 room nights in Chesterfield and about 4,900 room nights in cities nearby.
A city of Chesterfield survey conducted after last year’s tournament showed that 35 percent of visitors shopped at Chesterfield Mall at least once, spending an average of $222. Ninety-five percent shopped or dined at other Chesterfield businesses. Nearly 8 percent spent more than $1,000 during their stay, and 89 percent shelled out up to $700.
Zachary Dupuy, general manager of the Subway in Chesterfield Commons, said he expects the tournaments to drive about a 25-percent increase in business.
Jeff Greene, owner/operator of the Chick-Fil-A in Chesterfield Valley agreed.
“When you look at something like 146 or 120 teams, like what we expect those two weekends, obviously, it’s going to drive a tremendous amount of volume, specifically in the Commons,” he said.
Mayor Bruce Geiger called the tournaments an “outstanding opportunity to showcase one of the finest athletic complexes in the Midwest” and encouraged the community to take in some of the action.
The tournaments are free and open to the public. Games run from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. For more information, visit eteamz.com/STLEXPOSURE.