Softball tournament, soccer tournament, whitewater make for busy weekend

Softball and soccer tournaments, whitewater make for busy weekend

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMay 23, 2013 

Columbus hotel rooms will be filled. Restaurants will be crowded. It is a dream weekend for Peter Bowden, the president of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau.

By now everyone knows whitewater rafting will be a large local attraction, but there also is a college national softball championship in town and a youth soccer tournament with participants from around Georgia.

"There were a couple of small events that wanted to come here this weekend, and I told them I didn't think we could make it happen," Bowden said, noting that hotels are at about capacity.

A wedding and class reunion did get squeezed in, he said.

It is not likely the city will gain much from the Masters Water Ski Tournament at Callaway Gardens. "Most of those people will stay in the Pine Mountain area," Bowden said.

Dan Gilbert of Whitewater Express said 350 people have already signed up to go rafting on Saturday. They'll have at least 100 on Sunday and Monday, he said. That's better than he expected.

About 250 people are involved in the NAIA National Softball Championship, which begins Friday and runs through Thursday at South Commons.

"When the girls play softball, their mamas and daddies come to watch, brothers and sisters, everyone in the house -- friends, too," said Herbert Greene, executive director of the Columbus Sports Council.

David Miles, general manager of the Columbus Youth Soccer Association, said 190 teams -- 3,100 players -- are expected to participate in the Georgia State Soccer Cup to be played Saturday through Monday.

All 13 fields at the soccer complex on Woodruff Farm Road and two at Columbus State University will be used for the tournament.

"Winners advance to a national tournament," Miles said.

Bowden said about 4,500 people are expected for soccer, but Miles feels it may be more. He said each player usually brings two or three supporters.

The soccer teams consist of boys and girls, ages 9-16.

"These are elite soccer teams," Greene said. "People love to play at the soccer facility we have here."

Bowden put the economic impact of the softball tournament at about $168,000 and that of the soccer tournament at about $1 million.

Ten teams from around the country will be playing for the national softball title.

"There is going to be some great, competitive softball played here," Greene said. "This is a national championship. These are the best in NAIA."

All of the games will be played in the softball stadium with the other fields at South Commons used for practice and warming up.

"Everybody wants to play where the Olympic teams played," Greene said. "It is still a great selling point for us.

"(South Commons) needs a little touching up, but it still a world-class facility."

There will be no softball games on Sunday, which Greene said allows the visitors to enjoy area attractions, such as the National Infantry Museum and National Civil War Museum at Port Columbus. They may even want to try whitewater rafting.

The first tournament game will be played today at 10 a.m. with the title game scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday. A total of 18 games will be played.

The top seed is Concordia University from Irvine, Cal., which boasts a 48-3 record. Lubbock Christian University from Lubbock, Texas, 58-8, is the No. 2 seed.

Other seeds 3-10 are Lee University, 47-9, from Cleveland, Tenn.; Oklahoma City University, 50-13, from Oklahoma City; California State University--San Marcos, 43-10, from San Marcos, Cal.; Williams Baptist College, 44-7, from Walnut Ridge, Ark.; Auburn University Montgomery, 44-10, from Montgomery, Ala.; Reinhardt University, 43-7, from Waleska, Ga.; Saint Xavier University, 49-7, from Chicago, Ill.; and Spring Hill College, 44-15, from Mobile, Ala.

Greene said this is just the beginning of a busy summer with a high school all-star baseball tournament coming up next week and several tennis tournaments on the schedule.

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