Archived Story

ACPR set for busy summer slate

Published 10:05am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

While a lot of people will be on summer break for the next several weeks, the Alexander City Parks and Recreation department will be hard at work.
ACPR has a full summer for travel-ball this year, which is a mammoth improvement from last year’s schedule.
In 2013, Alexander City hosted two state travel-ball tournaments. This year, 11 state tournaments will be held on the grounds of the Charles E. Bailey, Jr. Sportplex.
“I’ve told all my guys to take their vacations before the summer,” ACPR executive director Sonny Wilson said. “Because come June and July, every last one of us are going to be here.”
Parks and Rec will host boys state tournaments for Cal Ripken league tee-ball (ages 6U) and the 12U and 13U state tournaments.
For softball, ages 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, and ages 16-18 will all play their state tournaments in Alexander City.
“As far as the Cal Ripken league, this is the first time that one of those tournaments will be held outside of Andalusia. For that you, you’re looking at about 20-25 teams,” Wilson said. “The 12U and 13U state tournament will have 10-15 teams in each, and they’ll be here for four or five days. Our hotels are already booked and have been for weeks in advance. I have coaches calling me right now trying to find a place for their teams to stay. “
In spite of the increased ledger of state tournaments, Parks and Rec hasn’t stopped there.
In addition to the various state tournaments, Wilson said, Parks and Rec will host district tournaments, various other travel-ball tournaments and adult league tournaments.
“Pretty much from next weekend until mid-June, there will be a tournament every week,” he said. “It’s a jam-packed summer for us.”
According to Wilson, the increased amount of tournaments came about thanks to the maintenance crew’s ability to keep one of last year’s state tourneys on schedule amidst a lack of cooperation from Mother Nature.
“The state rep was here and the district rep was here, and they saw how well our maintenance crew did. Even after all the rain, our guys got out there and had the field ready within the hour or an hour and a half max,” Wilson said. “It just impressed the representatives that were here. They wanted to give us more tournaments because they felt we could handle it, and they saw how our crew had shown out.”
In addition to a strong grounds crew and good facilities, Wilson added that Parks and Rec commitment to showing off Alexander City for visitors helped as well.
“When we go to state tournaments in other places – I coach a team – you have to find it on your own. One of the first things we do here is have what we call an ice-breaker,” he said. “We take all the coaches around town and show them where all the restaurants are. A lot of people think that we just have what’s on 280, but we show them everything this city has to offer.”
The approach has worked, Wilson said.
He added that the economic impact of these tournaments will be felt in Alexander City as well as neighboring counties like Lee and Talladega.
“Say you have 20 teams and 12-15 kids on each team. You have 15 families per team times 20 teams – that’s about 300 rooms. Alexander City only has about 255 rooms, so families are staying somewhere else,” Wilson said, adding that some teams who have played in Parks and Rec-hosted events have lodged in Sylacauga and Auburn. “There’s no doubt about it that we’re helping to boost the economy. They’ve got to eat, and they’ve got to have somewhere to stay.”
According to Wilson, this is only the beginning for Parks and Rec in their attempts to expand and continue to draw in visitors.
Assuming this year goes without a hitch, Wilson said that Parks and Rec would attempt to pick up a regional tournament for teams across the Southeast region.
Ultimately, Parks and Rec wants to host a World Series.
“We we have to start small and build your way up. So, if we do a good job with this year – which we will – hopefully, we’ll get a regional tournament next year,” Wilson said. “We feel like part of our responsibility is to bring more people to our community and give the kids and parents something to do. If a mom has $10, and that’s all she’s got, she’ll go see (her child) play ball. So we have to find a way to get them here.”
Parks and Rec kicks off its summer with a Babe Ruth tournament (ages 16-18) next weekend on June 6.