County details efforts to win 2021 Dixie Softball World Series bid

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 10, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

J.E.J. Moore Middle athletic fields to host World Series events

PRINCE GEORGE – County leaders are celebrating the decision of Dixie Softball, Inc. to allow Prince George County to serve as the host community for the 2021 Dixie Softball World Series, reinforcing the county’s efforts to advertise Prince George as an ideal venue for sports tournaments.

The announcement was made last Monday by county officials in a statement, who confirmed Prince George would host the 2021 Dixie Softball World Series for both the Darlings division (7-8 years old) and Angels X-play division (9-10 years old).

The Dixie Softball World Series in 2021 will host teams from eleven states across the south and, as the host, Prince George County will be allowed to enter a team in both divisions to compete for the title.

In September, Prince George Deputy County Administrator Jeff Stoke told county leaders and the community during the county’s board of supervisors meeting that a small delegation from Prince George would be heading to Tennessee to pitch the county to the league’s board of directors, competing with other communities from across the southern United States.

“We look forward to hosting the Dixie Softball World Series for the first time in our history,” Chairman Donald Hunter remarked last week. “The County officially welcomes the Dixie Softball teams, families and fans to visit the best part of Virginia in 2021. We are thrilled to be selected and support this outstanding event.”

In an interview, those sentiments were shared by Stoke following Dixie Softball’s decision to select Prince George County, marking the first time the league’s championship round would return to the Commonwealth since Powhatan hosted the Debs (16-18 years old) and Belles (13-15 years old) divisions in 2012.

Image Credit: Dixie Softball, Inc. / Facebook

“The county was very excited to bid on this World Series event,” he shared. “We have been working with baseball and softball tournaments for sometime, and knowing that our teams are affiliated with Dixie Softball, we felt the preparedness of our facilities and our staff, now is the right time to go after an event of this magnitude.”

Even though the announcement of Prince George’s selection came last week, the county had been engaged with the league on the prospect of hosting the World Series for several months, Stoke detailed.

“We met with the state delegation of Dixie Softball folks first and talked about the potential and they had to vet our fields and facilities. Then we had to officially submit a letter of intent to the national Dixie Softball organization to be considered and be invited to bid on the process. Then, [two weekends ago], we were invited to come to Burns, Tennessee – myself, parks and recreation director Keith Rotzoll, and associate director Rob Eley, who also serves as the Dixie Softball District 3 Division Coordinator for Virginia – to give a pitch against other competing states to win these two World Series events.”

While the individual pitches were blind, where other communities were not permitted to be in the room during their presentations, almost like an interview, Stoke said he believes Prince George competed against “a minimum of four communities, a couple from Louisiana, and maybe one from South Carolina.”

In that presentation or pitch to Dixie Softball’s national representatives, Stoke said their presentation was about showcasing all there is to do in Prince George and the county’s proximity to many other attractions a prospective team could engage in during downtime in tournament play.

“We prepared a mock program of what our facilities, fields, communities, and other information in a mock, four-cover brochure that we passed out and presented. We also presented a PowerPoint presentation introducing our community,” he explained.

“Since we had never done this before, we wanted to make sure that all of these voting directors from all over the south, from Texas to Florida to Virginia, 11 states in all, knew where Prince George, Virginia was so the PowerPoint included a location map, a map of our facilities, and how we feel the World Series tournament would be set up, with VIP tents, medical tents, headquarters, gate check-ins, and all the attributes that go with the World Series.”

The final element was a five-minute video showing Prince George and its passion for Dixie Softball, which a preview was showcased for residents and county leaders during last month’s board of supervisors meeting just before the county’s delegation headed to Tennessee to make their pitch.

Prince George County has been active in the realm of sports tourism, particularly when it comes to attracting various outdoor tournaments to the area, leveraging the county’s recreational resources in event-ready fields and strong lodging presence just off Interstate 95 at Exit 45 and along Crossings Boulevard near Interstate 295, which can support overnight stays for multi-day tournaments.

According to Stoke, those assets served to bolster the county’s pitch as they made their presentation to Dixie Softball’s national leadership.

“We really showed that we have a little bit of everything,” he remarked. “We had hotels at Exit 45 and we have over 600 hotel rooms in Prince George County. We have the restaurants and we have the features where if you have some downtime, whether if you win the whole thing or lose out early, both in Prince George County, like Swaders Sports Park and Tree Time Adventures, or if they want to tack on a family vacation on the end and stay in the Commonwealth,” noting options like Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion just off major interstates that link to Prince George.

On a daily basis, the county’s lodging options generate revenue and, with a tournament of this scale, Prince George stands to benefit as a boost to the county’s lodging tax revenue can be expected, which goes into the county’s tourism fund and supports tourism-related projects in a similar vein to how funds from the county’s economic development fund, which receives its revenue through the collection of meals taxes, can only be used for economic development-related projects.

“Tourism begets more tourism,” he said lightheartedly.

J.E.J. Moore Middle School and its athletic fields will serve as the host venue for the pair of Dixie Softball World Series events in 2020. (Michael Campbell)

While the event less than two years away, Stoke confirmed that J.E.J. Moore Middle School’s fields will be used for the 2021 Dixie Softball World Series events, noting the facility has the assets to support the event, with a general timetable of July to August 2021 for the week-long event to take place.

“We had to go over that in our PowerPoint,” he explained. “We had to go over parking, first aid, there is an opening ceremony requirement, a guest speaker, a dinner requirement. There is a requirement that we provide a birthday cake or a cupcake to any young participant of the softball teams who happens to be having a birthday during the week of the World Series, so we will be lining that up, as well.”

In addition, Prince George, given their status as hosts, will be able to field teams to take part in the Dixie World Series in 2021, which Stoke sees as a unique opportunity for the county’s youth.

“There are five-year-old girls out there in Prince George County that may not know it right now but they are going to be in a Dixie Softball World Series in two years,” he said.

Stoke, who is closely involved with economic development and tourism-related projects in his role as deputy county administrator said Prince George is always keeping their eyes open for prospects across industries, sports tourism and beyond.

“We are always going to be looking for other opportunities and tournaments,” he said. “Variety is good, you never want to put all of your eggs in one basket, but we hope to one day win another Dixie World Series in the future.”

“I think this shows the investments we have made in our facilities and our community really shown through to the national committee, and you had a group of people from all over the Southern United States say we are going to select Prince George County, Virginia and it wasn’t by accident. It was the hard work of a lot of dedicated people in this community who made it happen,” Stoke closed.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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