Aug. 1-Aug. 6 - Games will run at The Summit and Warner Park from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Aug. 7 - Championship game at noon at Warner Park
By Mary Beth Torgerson
This week 172 teams from across the country are battling it out in Chattanooga in the American Softball Association's Girls' 16-and-Under Class A National Championship.
"This is the biggest ASA national tournament ever," said Kim Swafford, Chattanooga ASA commissioner.
She estimated that a whopping 5,000 people will bring their foam fingers and their cheering voices to the tournament Aug. 2-7.
ASA Fastpitch National Championship
172 - Number of teams playing
2,300 - Number of girls playing
$3 million - Estimated revenues tournament will bring the city
Source: Amateur Softball Association, Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee
"They make their presence known," said Scott Smith, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee. "Most of them have paint and writing all over their car windows. They're wearing their jerseys around town. If you're in the vicinity, you will see them."
Not only will fans bring their team spirit, they will also bring their pocketbooks, according to city records. This particular event is estimated to bring about $3 million to the city's hotels, attractions, restaurants and gift shops.
From 2003-2007, the city estimates visitors spent about $18.28 million each year during sporting events. The average for the past three years was 25 percent higher, about $22.66 million. Softball tournaments contributed nearly half the total, almost $10 million, according to Smith.
"The past two years have been our highest ever, even during the recession softball is definitely our bread-and-butter," said Smith.
Like many of the more-than two dozen area hotels, Staybridge Suites downtown will host many of the teams throughout the week.
"They keep us busy, and during the week it just gets busier," said Rakia Haynes, guest service manager of the hotel on Carter Street.
The downtown Marriott Hotel expects the classic American sport to produce a homerun of sold-out nights, says Mary Childress, director of sales and marketing.
Youngsters in uniforms with cheerful families in attendance lift the staff's spirits, she adds. "We're looking forward to the energy the teams bring to the hotel and to the city."
Softball is a way of life for some and many dedicated players pick it up early, such as 15-year-old Baylor School sophomore and local Fury 94 team member Cassie Pickett, who is 15 and has already played 1,000 softball games in her career.
But all of the sweat and tears involved in practicing and competing in softball might pay off in the long run for the girls who call the sport their own.
"The dedication, discipline and cooperation required also prepare girls for success," said Swafford. "Women who play sports in high school and college are often very successful in the business world. They know how to be team players."
Kathy Gilbert and Kate Harrison contributed to this article.