Editorial: The minor league ballpark with a big economic footprint | Editorial

At the conclusion of play on a recent Saturday, one team walked away with the trophy. The city of Fredericksburg, however, walked off with a financial win following the Babe Ruth World Series tournament played at the Virginia Credit Union Stadium.

For Nick Hall, executive vice president and general manager of the Fredericksburg Nationals, the event was just a taste of what’s to come for the stadium and for the city.

Before getting too far into it, however, let’s take a moment to appreciate what just occurred.

A dozen teams of 13- to 15-year-old players from across the country earned their way into the Babe Ruth World Series by winning local, state and regional tournaments. Two teams from Virginia made the field — one from Stafford (which hosted the tournament) and one from Lakeside.

The Babe Ruth World Series, first played in 1952, selected the home of the FredNats as the site for this year’s tournament. The Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority contributed $75,000 toward the event, and over the course of the week, players and their families attended and were recognized at a FredNats game. They were able to have some free time to enjoy the city and its sights, and of course, play some very good baseball.

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Their impact on our economy was significant. According to Bill Freehling, Fredericksburg’s director of economic development and tourism, some 1,200 hotel rooms were occupied by participants over the course of the week (900 of those rooms in Fredericksburg). Families of course dined at local restaurants and shopped at local stores.

Hall says the facility was attractive to the Babe Ruth World Series because the “location is perfect. We have hotels almost in our parking lot. There’s shopping. Folks can walk to the stadium, and we can show off Fredericksburg.”

Travel sports are big business in the United States. The Sports Events and Tourism Association reports that in 2021, the direct spending impact of amateur and youth sports tourism was $39.7 billion, which generated a total economic impact of $91.8 billion.

While the city can’t expect to attract large tournaments that require multiple fields over many days, events like the Babe Ruth World Series, where two or three games a day are played over a period of a week, are ideal for the stadium.

Examples of events that Hall is looking to attract include a collegiate championship tournament, and possibly a longer-term relationship with the Babe Ruth World Series.

Those goals are well within reach. The playing field already hosts about 100 events a year — baseball games, of course, but also concerts and even a Nerf war in recent months.

The stage is in use 200 to 250 days per year. Business has been so good, in fact, that there now is a team solely dedicated to servicing nonsporting events at the facility.

It’s the kind of economic engine that Freehling had hoped the ballpark would deliver. Hall credits the people of Fredericksburg for making it happen.

“Fredericksburg has come out in a big way” to support us, Hall says. The Fred Nats ranked No. 3 in attendance last season among all Single-A baseball teams, and it looks to be on track to hold on to that spot again this season.

“Myrtle Beach and Charleston are the only teams beating us” in fan attendance, Hall said.

Expect bigger things to come as word gets out about this jewel of a ballpark in Fredericksburg.

The games played there will always have winners and losers. As for the stage’s economic impact on the region? It’s a grand slam for all of us.

— Adapted from The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star


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