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Softball, Tobacco Bring Increased Business to Wilson

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WILSON — People traveled from all over the Southeast toWilsonWednesday for a women's softball tournament.

With the regional Babe Ruth softball tournament and next week's tobacco market, visitors are contributing to a business boom.

Alabama athlete Gia Rodriguez says her team plans to "do a little shopping and meet the host families, and just socializing with the friends [they're] planning to make ... and winning."

In just two hours, visitor Mary Ann Spence shelled out $200.

"We found the mall, so we could go shopping," she said. "I told my husband, 'The girls have to go shopping,' and we found a sporting goods store. We've already spent some money at the sporting goods store this morning."

The newcomers are hitting town about the same time as tobacco farmers. The market opens in Wilson next week.

Together, both groups could fill the county's 1,000 hotel rooms and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. TheWilson County Tourism Authoritywants to make sure the visitors remember the area.

"The Tourism Authority paid $10,000 in grant money to get this tournament here," says Steve Leder, chairman of the Tourism Authority. "We paid for the bats and the balls, and we paid for the umpires."

Incentives go a long way toward earning a reputation as a good host town. Next summer, Wilson will host the softball World Series with national TV coverage. In the world of recruiting moneymaking sports events, success breeds success.

"All the young people will be here next season," Leder said. "They're supposed to generate over a million dollars in revenue to Wilson County in tourism."

Businesses in Wilson hope that all of the visitors will like what they see and come back again.