Columbia to host Little League Regional

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | 8:52 p.m. CST; updated 10:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Little League District 4 Administrator Gary Kespohl was informed Monday that Columbia has been chosen to host a 2008 Little League World Series Senior League regional tournament.

A little over a week after Kespohl was told by Central Region Administrator Mike Legge that Columbia was one of the final two choices for the Central Region’s portion of the Series, Kespohl received a call from Legge, notifying him that Columbia would be the host of the August regional.

“I think this city will welcome the Little League regional with open arms,” Kespohl said.

Columbia takes over for Peru, Ill., the longtime host that decided against holding the tournament next year. Kespohl estimates the 13-state region of Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin will bring between 100 and 120 families to Columbia and cost between $15,000 and $20,000. Official approval for the tournament will come from the city council after Kespohl presents and submits an application to the Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau. The Bureau then must approve and submit it to the city council for final consent. Kespohl plans to submit the application sometime after Christmas.

“I’ve been involved in Little League baseball for 30 years in Columbia, and there are certain people I can call who have a warm spot for Little League baseball,” Kespohl said. “They will support it. I guarantee it.”

Since District 4 is the host of the 16-and-under tournament, the champion of the district tournament next year will play in the regional, regardless of state tournament outcome. They will join the state champions from the other states in the Central Region.

Part of hosting the regional means that Columbia, barring a poor experience for incoming visitors, has the annual option of retaining the tournament. Keeping it as long as possible may be a profitable choice, considering ESPN and the Little League World Series extended their contract in January through 2009. Part of the re-negotiation included an increase in the amount of broadcasted Little League games of all levels--including Senior League.

“We’re thrilled to hear the great news,” said Lorah Steiner, the executive director of Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau. “It’s an event that will not only have a positive economic impact on the city, but long-term potential for other sporting events increases because of the Little League World Series.”

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