OCEAN CITY — With the resort hosting opening ceremonies for the third and final leg of the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series on Monday, the economic impact of the lower shore event was weighed this week and has been estimated at around $10 million.
That revenue will be felt all over the Eastern Shore, but especially in Wicomico and Worcester counties, according to Kristen Conn, director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Wicomico Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Civic Center.
Wicomico is playing host to the USSSA tournament for the seventh consecutive year. The tourney began last month and wraps up this weekend. While much of the revenue generated directly and indirectly by the event will likely stay in Wicomico, Conn revealed that neighboring counties should benefit as well.
“Preliminary estimates suggest approximately one-third of the impact will be felt in Worcester County, including Ocean City,” she said. “This estimate is based on the number of Worcester County/Ocean City hotel rooms reserved through the county’s online reservation system, and it may be adjusted once additional information is analyzed regarding team accommodations.”
Dorchester County and Sussex County in Delaware will also benefit from the World Series, continued Conn. A survey given to teams revealed that players will seek accommodations in all four counties. Many of the players and coaches will also be commuting in and spending time on the shore while they are not playing, she said.
“Over the years, teams have traveled in from 19 different states in addition to Canada,” noted Conn. “For many of them, this is their first visit to the Eastern Shore, so on off days they like to explore the region.”
Ocean City especially hopes to cater to the teams and spent roughly $8,000 on an opening day ceremony at the beach this week for the third-leg of the World Series. This is the first year the resort has held opening ceremonies, but whether that will translate to more teams staying and shopping in Ocean City isn’t clear yet.
Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, explained that numbers are not in yet as to whether players are staying in Ocean City.
The resort has always benefited to a degree from USSSA, however.
“We do get overflow rooms from that event because there are only so many rooms in Salisbury and it’s a very large event,” said Jones.
Malcolm Van Kirk, co-owner of the Sea Bay Hotel in Ocean City, has not seen any noticeable bump in business from the event so far this summer. It’s been pretty much steady in his hotel from last summer, he said, adding that this was still a good thing as the tournament provides a booster shot to business at the end of every July.
“We’re very happy and would like to make sure the event continues … we’re very pleased with the overall event,” said Van Kirk.
While Sea Bay may not have seen a specific increase in activity this summer, Conn expects that Ocean City as a whole will benefit from significant overflow.
“This year, over the course of the tournament, an estimated 16,000 hotel room nights were needed. This exceeds Wicomico County’s hotel room capacity, so stays spill over into the surrounding area with Ocean City seeing the largest number of rooms booked outside of Wicomico,” Conn said. “This works out well as teams preferring to stay close to fields of play opt to stay in Wicomico, while those interested in seeing the beach, ocean and Boardwalk select Ocean City.”
All counties involved are likely to see some increases simply due to the tournament’s growth, she added. Over the last seven years, the USSSA event has exploded in terms of popularity. More than 5,000 softball players ages 10 through 18 are expected to visit Delmarva because of the World Series with roughly 75,000 total attendees anticipated this year.
“The event has grown dramatically since it first came to Wicomico County in 2007. Beginning with just 58 teams participating over the course of one week, the World Series expanded to two weeks last year and brought a record 292 teams together in competition. This year, with the expansion to three weeks, the tournament grew even more to 400 teams,” Conn said.
Since it began in 2007, Conn revealed that the USSSA World Series has brought in more than $25 million to the area, with this year’s total nearly 40 percent of that. The event will hopefully continue to grow in Wicomico and spill over to neighboring counties every year, said Conn. The location of the 2014 tournament hasn’t been announced yet, she added, but Wicomico is optimistic about playing host for an eighth consecutive year.
The USSSA World Series runs through Aug. 3.