SALEM (WSLS10)-- Thousands of softball players are arriving in the Roanoke Valley, ahead of this weekend's International Softball Federation World Cup that kicks off today. It's an event that brings a huge payoff to the City of Salem and the entire region, including local hotels and restaurants.
Typically when tournaments like this are in the area, they're for high school or college sports-- meaning three or four teammates will be bunked together in each room. With adult leagues like this, each teammate typically gets their own hotel room. There are 97 teams participating, which means as many as 8,000 hotel room nights will be booked throughout the weekend. Last year, the teams were split up between 28 hotels, extending the tournament's reach throughout the Roanoke Valley.
"It's the whole gamut of everything," says John Shaner, the Director for Salem Parks and Recreation. "It's the hotels, the restaurants, it's Kroger, it's Walmart and our gas stations. It's the whole aspect of trying to bring new people into our valley, representing 17 different states. There are no local teams in this tournament at all, so every person that's coming has to get a hotel room."
The games end between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. each night, meaning these adult softball players also have plenty of time to go out to dinner. These visitors are willing to spend more money than youth leagues typically do, enjoying finer dining in Downtown Roanoke and across the region.
There are also some staples that the teams are expected to visit between games, like Chick-Fil-A, which is just a few minutes from Moyer Park.
"Our marketing director has a calendar that she maintains in the office and it stays full of local events." says Vanessa Miles, the Community Director for Chick-Fil-A. "We're very thankful for that, because our local leaders work hard to get these events here. We prepare for it, we staff up, we make big orders and do everything we can to serve our guests and make sure they get to experience our local hospitality."
Vanessa and her husband, Shaine, say they love to see all of the athletes in their restaurant, coming straight over between games in their cleats and uniforms.
This is a huge tournament, with 97 teams competing-- the City of Salem is working with the entire region to make it a success. Salem is teaming up with Roanoke County, Roanoke City and Botetourt County. The games will take place at 15 fields across the valley, including Moyer Sports Complex in Salem and the Botetourt Sports Complex.
"It's a team aspect for the whole valley," says Eric Obrien, the Manager of Moyer Sports Complex. "We do events that benefit the valley as a whole, not just one locality in particular."
It's a tournament that used to take place in Northern Virginia, but is now bringing that huge economic impact right here to our region. The games kick off today and run through Sunday.