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Girls Fast Pitch World Series drawn to area

Buffalo is getting a world series.

The region will host a world series for girls softball next summer, drawing some 2,000 girls and more than 150 travel teams from around the United States and Canada to play in a weeklong tournament.

The National Softball Association Girls Fast Pitch World Series will run from July 17 to 22 at two locations: the Northtown Center at Amherst Recreation Complex on Amherst Manor Drive in Amherst and Sunshine Park on East and West Road in West Seneca, organizers said.

The event features five divisions of girls younger than 18 and is expected to have more than a $3 million economic impact on the Buffalo region – Amherst and West Seneca, in particular – filling roughly 1,000 hotel rooms a night for five nights.

Its impact will be comparable to that of the USA Youth Hockey national championship held here earlier this year, said Patrick Kaler, president of Visit Buffalo Niagara.

“It’s pretty significant when you have 150-plus teams coming for that number of days,” Kaler said. “And the age group is really appealing, too, because they’re bringing families – the parents, the grandparents, brothers and sisters.”

“We’ve been trying to get it up here for the last four or five years,” said Ed Warhol, New York State director of the National Softball Association. “Mostly, it’s always down in Kentucky, South Carolina or Florida. This is the first time ever it’s in the Northeast.”

A representative for the National Softball Association, based in Kentucky, scouted the region this spring and approved the Amherst and West Seneca sites because of the quantity and quality of the fields, said Chuck Giglia, director of sports sales for the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, a subsidiary of Visit Buffalo Niagara.

The softball association also liked the area because of the family-friendly attractions – Niagara Falls, Canalside, Darien Lake, the Buffalo Zoo, Warhol said. The softball world series tends to turn into a vacation for the families participating, he said.

“That’s why we’re even more appealing for these type of events,” Kaler said. “We have those other activities when they’re not playing.”

Officials at the national organization gave approval for a Buffalo world series about two weeks ago, Giglia said. Local organizers were waiting for Amherst to OK the use of its ball fields at the Northtown Center, which it did this week.

West Seneca already signed off on the use of Sunshine Park, Giglia said.

If successful, Buffalo could become part of the regular rotation of sites for the softball world series, he said.

“We don’t do a lot of these prestigious softball tournaments like this, so we’re happy to have it,” Giglia said.

The annual event attracts travel teams from the East Coast, South, Midwest and southern Ontario, Warhol said. The National Softball Association sponsors another world series closer to the West Coast for girls teams in that part of the country, he said.

Teams compete in regional play to qualify. The Buffalo region has roughly 150 travel teams, Warhol said, some of which will earn a berth to the world series.

“We’re excited,” said Warhol, who is from Hamburg. “West Seneca and Amherst are excited, because they always go down to the world series, and it’s nice to show other parts of the country that we can compete with them and have just as nice facilities.”


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