Tourism

Thousands of athletes and families are boosting Chattanooga’s tourism industry this week.

Hundreds of fast girl softball teams swing their bats at local baseball fields this week as part of the Scenic City Summer Showcase, which is proving successful for Chattanooga’s $1.5 billion a year tourism industry.

The four-day tournament attracted more than 13,500 players and spectators from 484 teams from 27 states at one of the year’s biggest sports tourist destinations in Chattanooga. Sunday’s fast-paced softball games will be followed by a triathlon on the Chattanooga waterfront with more than 1,000 participants and 1,600 spectators on the city’s waterfront.

“This weekend will be a bonanza for sports tourism,” Tim Morgan, chief sports officer for Chattanooga Sports, a division of Chattanooga Tourism Co., said in a statement. “Between the Scenic City Showcase and the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, Chattanooga will showcase how we can leverage a variety of community assets to generate great economic returns for our travel and hospitality industry.”

Morgan estimates that the sporting events will bring in more than $7.5 million in additional spending at game sites in Chattanooga, East Ridge and Northwest Georgia. Many of the local hotels are full or nearly full this week, and some rooms are over $300 per night for players and their parents.

“Being downtown this week is costing me as much as a cruise,” Rodney Arnett, father of Cincinnati center guard Leah Arnett, said as he unloaded his car to get ready for Wednesday night’s softball game. “We couldn’t find anything cheaper than $300 (per night). It’s almost like being in New York.”

Chattanooga is the fourth stop among at least eight exhibition tournaments that Arnett has entered in the Midwest and Southeast to attract the attention of college coaches and recruiters.

“These exhibition tournaments give us a chance to get noticed by college scouts and maybe get a chance at a college scholarship.” – Nicole Ogburn, mother of a rising sophomore who brought her family to Chattanooga this week from the Charlotte, North Carolina suburb, – said during preparation for the game at Camp Jordan. “We’ll be in Atlanta in two weeks for another of these events.”

Photo by Dave Flessner / Players from some of the 484 women’s softball teams arrive at Camp Jordan on Wednesday for the Scenic City Showcase.

Connect Sports, the Chattanooga-based sponsor of the Scenic City Showcase, is hosting eight such Girls’ Softball Showcase events in the South this summer. Jill Crawford Higdon and Jeremy Higdon, who coach girls in softball, have been creating and running fast pitch softball competitions since 2005.

“When we started one of these tournaments here, there were about 40 teams participating, and every year the number grew,” Jill Higdon said in a telephone interview.

Higdon said that this year’s Scenic City Showcase has about 70 baseball fields across…

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