TERRE HAUTE —
Improvements bring opportunity — to the tune of $900,000 to $1.8 million.
That’s the projected economic benefit Terre Haute can expect from the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship. The eight-team tournament will take place May 20-24 at Bob Warn Field at Indiana State University’s Sycamore Stadium.
“That impact is based on attendance, anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 people,” said David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Weather will also have a lot to do with that attendance number. There are so many factors for an outdoor collegiate baseball event,” Patterson said. “Some of it will be the match ups of the teams. If you think your team has a chance, you might drive two hours” to attend a game, Patterson added.
The direct impact spreads to gasoline stations, restaurants and shopping areas. “For an overnight visitor, we estimate $150” is spent, a number that is likely conservative, Patterson said, with that impact having a multiplying effect of two.
“There is a direct impact and then those people working in hotels or gasoline stations and other places will also spend their wages in the community for groceries, tires for cars and the dentist,” Patterson.
It has been 32 years since Indiana State University has hosted the tournament, and its return rests squarely on ISU’s improvement/investment in Sycamore Stadium, Patterson said.
“To have the ability to even pursue this bid [for the MVC baseball tournament], ISU had to upgrade its facility,” Patterson said.
ISU upgraded its baseball facility in 2009-2010. It holds 2,000 spectator seats, a locker room and clubhouse for ISU and staff members, a FieldTurf infield and natural grass outfield, an indoor practice facility two blocks from the stadium, plus a renovated press box and new outfield wall.
The field is named after Bob Warn, who led ISU to 1,070 wins from 1976 to 2006, including an appearance in the 1986 College World Series. The stadium is at the corner of First and Locust Streets.
The MVC baseball tournament is part of a lineup of sports-related events that will draw visitors to Terre Haute in the final two weeks of this month.
In addition to the MVC tournament, the Indiana Soccer Cup, a U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series event is taking place on Terre Haute’s south side and began on Saturday. The Hulman Classic race at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds will be Wednesday, and the sixth annual Memorial Day Blowout Fast Pitch Softball tournament will be Friday to May 26.
Other events impacting Terre Haute, especially for hotels, includes the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday, along with the May 27 opening baseball game of the Terre Haute Rex. In addition, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will have its graduation commencement May 31.
Bill Berdine, manager of the Holiday Inn and Springhill Suites, said both hotels will be full for at least 11 days. “It is a combination of everything. Any event that brings additional business benefits every hotel in the marketplace because it gives them a chance to pick up additional rooms or referrals from hotels that are full. We all work together to pass business along when we are full,” Berdine said.
“We think the last 16 days of the month will be extremely strong for our hotels,” Berdine added. “Rose-Hulman did change their graduation date, which was usually Memorial Day weekend, which spreads the business out a bit.”
The MVC tournament and other sports events will have a direct impact on businesses like Pacesetter Sports.
“I think that with us being directly in between the hotels where the teams are staying at and the ball diamond and with their free time, I think we will have a lot of traffic from not only from the fans, but the players and participants who will shop at our store,” said Brent Compton of Pacesetter Sports.
Compton said comparable events include fall’s NCAA Division I Pre-National and NCAA Division I Championship Cross Country events, as well as tournaments for soccer, softball and games for the Terre Haute Rex baseball team.
“We’re real excited about this MVC tournament. We are also the official merchandise provider for Indiana State University. We have a portable store we take to all home events and will be at Bob Warn Field and hope to do well on site there as well as here at the store. These are events, in a small way, where we get to help Indiana State showcase, not only their talents, but professionalism and presentation,” Compton said.
Getting ready for MVC teams
Competing teams in the MVC tournament are Bradley, Dallas Baptist, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State universities. It is a double-elimination tournament. The winner gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Division I baseball tournament.
Starting Tuesday, games are played at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each of the first three days, two “if necessary” games at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, with the championship game airing on Fox Sports Midwest at 8 p.m. EST Saturday. The cost is $10 for a single matchup or $30 for the full series.
The teams are staying at Holiday Inn, Springhill Suites, Candlewood and Fairfield Inn, while media, MVC officials and team administrators will be housed at the Hilton Garden Inn, closest to the baseball stadium.
Dennis Darke, ISU assistant facilities manager, said work began May 5 to prepare Sycamore Stadium for the MVC championship, prior to ISU’s last home baseball game last Sunday.
And for Darke, the championship will be an around-the-clock endeavor. He plans to sleep at the field during the four-day tournament. Cleanup and preparation work for the next day’s game will likely end between midnight and 1 a.m. each evening. Rather than spend 40 minutes to go and return from his home, he can gain that time by being at the facility.
That’s because Darke plans to be at ISU’s indoor practice facility, about two blocks from the ball field, each day between 5:45 and 6 a.m. “Batting practice starts at 6:50 a.m. at the indoor facility. We have to have that opened and ready for them,” Darke said.
Batting practice will be held on the playing field only on championship day, Darke said.
There’s plenty of daily work to do between games for ISU personnel.
“We have to redo all the mounds and clean out the dugouts. Then in between sessions, which is after the first two games, the stadium will be emptied and we will do all that again, plus have student workers go through the stands to pick up pieces of garbage,” Darke said.
In addition, the baseball field will be mowed each morning before teams arrive.
“That way the stripes are bright and they pop out,” Darke said of the daily mowing. “We’ve got to make it as good as we can. I don’t want this to be a once every 32 year event. I am hoping that everybody will be impressed with it and we can have it in three, four or five years again,” Darke said.
“I think it would be good for the city to have it every five years. There are seven teams coming in and the good thing is we have multiple teams that are very close like Evansville, Bradley and Illinois State. I hope their fans travel,” Darke said.
Some other preparation work done prior to the tournament included washing pads on the outfield fence, as well as putting up windscreens. Other small things include having individual team flags ready to hoist while the teams play on the field.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize the man-hours it takes, but in the end I hope it is worth it. I want the facility to look good, and I want people to be impressed with it and hopefully in the future it helps us get the tournament again, sooner, rather than later,” Darke said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard. firstname.lastname@example.org.