COLUMBIA — Columbia will soon learn whether it will be a host of a Little League World Series Senior League regional tournament, according to Little League District 4 Administrator Gary Kespohl. A Little League official informed Kespohl Monday that Columbia was one of two finalists for the tournament.
Mike Legge, Central Region Administrator, has narrowed his choices to Columbia and Ankeny, Iowa. A decision regarding the home of the August 2008 event is expected in the next week, and Kespoho is confident in Columbia’s chances.
“From what (Legge), who is making the decision, has told me, I think our chances are excellent,” Kespoho said.
The process began back in October when Kespohl submitted an application to fill the void left when longtime host Peru, Ill., decided against hosting the event next year. Kespohl produced a report to Legge highlighting Columbia’s attributes and ability to host the tournament. His ideal plan for the tournament would have all games played at the Hickman, Rock Bridge and MU baseball fields.
“I think we have the facilities. The Hickman and Rock Bridge fields are both great facilities,” Kespohl said. “I want grass infields and stadium seating, and I think Hickman and Rock Bridge have that.”
Kespohl estimates the tournament would bring between 100 and 120 families from the 12-state Central Region to Missouri and said the total cost would be $15,000-20,000.
“The Little League doesn’t support you with that money,” Kespohl said. “You have to raise that on your own every year, so I’m talking to people about financial support.”
If selected, the 16-and-under tournament would eventually bring national exposure to Columbia. The Little League World Series recently extended its contract with ESPN/ABC, and part of the negotiations called for an increasing amount of Little League World Series of all levels to be televised. While not explicitly stated in the contract signed in January, there is a chance that the regional championship in future years could be broadcasted nationally.
“There’s nothing in the current contract that calls for it, but we are always increasing the number of games on TV,” Little League spokesman Lance Van Auken said.
With or without ESPN, for Columbia, the Series could mean major advertising.
“When the Tour of Missouri came through, we got international coverage, which means for every mention in a newspaper, we got that much advertising,” Lorah Steiner, executive director of Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said. “I think the same can be said for the Little League World Series in that you’ve got national positive coverage.”
Although Steiner is confident the tournament will be a success for Columbia, the total impact may be less than other events that have come to town.
“It will have a solid economic impact. It will bring a significant amount of money to the community,” Steiner said. “Compared to other events that have come to the city, though, I don’t think it’ll surpass many of the events we already have.”