Pete Caster / pcaster@chronline.com

Signs of Success: Event Highlights Mission of Sports Hub

Vision: Large Tournaments in Centralia Mean More Hotel Stays, Dining and Shopping for Local Businesses

By Kyle Spurr / kspurr@chronline.com

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More than 200 prep softball players from around the region converged on the Lewis County Sports Complex in Centralia this week for the Fastpitch Northwest’s fourth annual Championship College Exposure Tournament.

The sight of athletes and their families filling the ball fields and later spending money on hotel stays, restaurants and shops is encouraging for the Lewis County Sports Complex and Northwest Sports Hub organizers.

Centralia City Manager Rob Hill said when the Sports Complex and Sports Hub partners — city of Centralia, Centralia School District, Lewis County Public Facilities District and the Lewis County Event Center LLC — first conceived the idea, the vision was to have these events to boost economic development through more shopping and dining in the area.

“It certainly appears to be working,” Hill said.

Todd Chaput, the PFD chair and general manager at the Holiday Inn Express in Chehalis, said the multi-day tournaments are especially great for the hotels in the area.

“Not only are they staying in hotels, but they are out in the community using the restaurants, gas stations and shops,” Chaput said. “That was the whole point of this process to make this happen.”

Once the 70-foot-high, 75,600-square-foot Northwest Sports Hub is complete early next year by the Sports Complex in Fort Borst Park, Chaput said, it will be able to host indoor sports, which will help increase business in the winter months.

“Right now, in the winter, none of the hotels are busy,” Chaput said. “The need is there for a couple months, but not year round.”

Renate Johnson, the marketing and property manager at the Centralia Outlets, said the outlet stores all notice more customers during the tournaments at the Sports Complex.

“We really notice a jump in our business,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t be happier with the activity we have during the summer and we are certainly looking forward to the the indoor events in the winter time.”

Other youth tournaments are planned this summer, including some hosted by Babe Ruth and the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).

The softball tournament this week had players from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and British Columbia divided into 18 teams in two age divisions.

About 50 of the players are from the Lewis County area.

Fastpitch Northwest Director Ken Olson said four of the participants are from Hawaii, about a dozen are from British Columbia and about 60 are from Idaho and Oregon.

“Here we have 37 college coaches looking at 200 players,” Olson said. “As far as the ratio of college coaches to potential student athletes, there is no better.”

About 145 softball players attended the fastpitch tournament four years ago, and the event has since grown at the Lewis County Sports Complex.

“Every year it gets a little bit bigger,” Olson said. “We are trying to help these kids pursue a dream.”

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