A girls' softball tournament in Cary, running July 20-26, illustrates the economic benefits for Wake that the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau officials said have been brought by big-time sports, including U.S.A. Baseball, the NCAA men's soccer championship and a Champion's Tour golf tournament.
With 118 teams from across the country competing, the PONY National Fastpitch Nationals is expected to pump around $2 million into the local economy, said GRCVB officials.
Teams and fans, some of whom said they came from as far away as Fairfield, Connecticut, booked more than 5,000 nights at local hotels. Staff at the Comfort Suites Cary said it was completely booked for the week.
GRCVB officials have learned that it is also a competition to keep these big-time sports events coming.
In 2004, Protect Our Nations Youth decided to move the girls' softball tournament to Virginia from Cary, where it had been held since 2001.
Local businesses felt the loss of the money that the tournament had brought in, said GRCVB officials.
"We'd get lots of phone calls from the hotels and restaurants, 'Where's Pony?' 'What's going on with PONY?' 'Why don't we have PONY this summer?'' said Scott Dupree, GRCVB's director of sports marketing.
Tournament organizers said they originally left because the tournament had gotten too large for Raleigh and Cary softball fields to handle.
After the Raleigh Jaycees offered to host the tournament, however, officials decided to return to Wake this year.
The Jaycees provided the tournament with fund-raising, financial support and event management, said Jaycee officials.The Town of Cary and GRCVB joined with the Jaycees to provide additional support for the event.
In the past year, GRCVB said they have helped plan around 70 future events, which the expect will bring about $27 million into Wake County.