OCEAN CITY – The bases are aligned for the largest girls’ softball tournament in the country to come to the Wicomico/Worcester County region, and the Town of Ocean City approved a final measure this week — the USSSA World Series Opening Ceremony.
The USSSA World Series Opening Ceremony will be held on July 29 on the beach on the south side of the pier. The series will take place throughout three weeks, from July 17-Aug. 3.
The partnership between Wicomico and Worcester counties to host the event came forward in February and was presented by Ocean City’s Tourism Advisory Board (TAB).
Wicomico County Director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Gary Mackes came before the Ocean City Mayor and Council explaining the USSSA intends to hold its Girls World Series in the Wicomico/Worcester County region for its seventh consecutive year in 2013.
The USSSA Girls World Series is an amateur girls’ softball tournament featuring teams ranging in age from 8 to 18 and represented by 13 states and Canada.
Last year, 292 teams and over 4,000 players, plus coaches and families, participated, making it the second largest girls’ softball tournament on the East Coast next to the series held at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
This year the organizer is anticipating over 380 teams, over 4,500 players, and a total attendance of over 75,000 people. The event’s economic impact is estimated at more than $8 million.
Although the opening ceremony will cost the town close to $8,000 between equipment, labor and loss in revenue at the Inlet Parking Lot, the potential positive economic impact from lodging, food and beverage, recreation and other incidental expenditures far exceed the cost.
“Wicomico County doesn’t have the capacity to house those folks, and they are coming as far away as Canada, the mid-west and the south east, and this is one of the largest girls softball world series of its kind in the country,” Wicomico County Deputy Director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Andy Wisk said this week. “So we reached out to you all and TAB for a stronger partnership to host the event, and that was developed, and I am very pleased to stand here to show you that even before we go through the year it has gone beyond even our expectations.”
The opening ceremony in Ocean City will kick off a week-long youth softball tournament hosted in Wicomico County. The ceremony will consist of a team parade and introductions, a DJ, several speeches, food for players and coaches and low-impact games.
“The girls will be out on the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Where else would a 16-year-old or a 18-year-old young lady want to be? Spending some time on the boardwalk before they begin to play and enter the spirit of competition,” Wisk said. “This will be a fun night and this is when they can take a bow in making it this far in the process and Ocean City is the perfect back drop for this.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said the USSSA World Series was the perfect opportunity for Ocean City to partner with Wicomico County.
“The more we can do in measures like this, the stronger we are going to be as an area and a bigger draw we are going to be for the sports market, which is a tremendous market for tourism,” the mayor said. “Wicomico County has all the fields; we’ve got the hotel rooms so it’s a perfect partnership”
Meehan added Ocean City will be able to track the number of hotel bookings made for the event.
“According to discussions I’ve had, they have rented a lot of rooms during the time period, and during the weeks we were looking to rent rooms,” the mayor said.
The council voted unanimously to approve the opening ceremony event as presented.