City to host summer event
Posted: November 16, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — A professional horseshoe pitching tournament will come to Jim Barnett Park next year, and Winchester could become a regular stop on the tour.
The HP Pro Tour will hold a tournament in the park on June 1-2, members of the Winchester-Frederick County Tourism Board were told Thursday. The tour hosted six events in 2012 at sites ranging from Vermont to Texas.
Brad Veach, the city’s parks and recreation director, said tour officials have told him that based on Winchester’s location, 75 to 100 pitchers could turn out for the tournament.
“They feel that this area, with its proximity smack dab in the middle of their tour, could draw some good numbers,” he said.
The Winchester Horseshoe Pitchers Association helped the city land the event, Veach said.
“The local club events put us in the mind of the national organization,” he said, “[and] made them realize we could handle a national event.
“It’s something we didn’t pursue. They came to us and said, ‘We think Winchester could be a good place for this event.’”
Also influential was a Richmond man — he has requested anonymity — who covered the bid fee. Veach said he doesn’t know the amount, but thought it was between $2,000 and $2,500.
The park has 24 clay pits, with lights for night play. Restrooms and other necessary facilities already are in place, Veach said, but extra seating might be brought in.
“[Tour officials] think the layout is ideal,” he said. “They’re very impressed with the way the park and the local club handles things.”
The Winchester tournament will replace Frederick, Md., as a Tour stop.
Ron Taylor, the tour’s director of operations, said because it primarily draws only the world’s top players, it usually takes time for a new site to gain popularity.
However, because Winchester is “right in the heart of horseshoe country” — the majority of players live along the East Coast, and no farther west than Missouri — he thinks the stop will be popular from the start.
“Where we might normally have 60 or 70 players involved,” he said, “we’re thinking this one will reach 100 in the first year. That’s relatively unheard of with us.
“Certain locations build pretty quickly. We’re gambling Winchester will be one of those.”
The York, S.C., resident said players are divided into divisions based on their skill level. The typical entry fee ranges from $100 for top-tier pitchers to $50 for lower divisions.
That money and sponsorship dollars — less expenses — comprise each tournament’s purse. Taylor said the season-ending national championship in York, Pa., Nov. 2-4 paid a total of $13,000 to participants, including $2,000 to the winner, $1,500 to the runner-up, and $1,000 to the other two semifinalists.
It’s too early to tell what the purse will be for the Winchester event, Taylor said, but the top-division winner likely will receive from $1,000 to $1,500.
Because the tour is so new, few regular sites have been established. But Taylor thinks the Winchester stop will grow in popularity, “and we’re hoping we’ll be there a while.”
The tournament will be the latest major niche sporting event the park has landed in recent years. It has hosted the 2011 Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old World Series and regional bicycle motocross events.
The range of events the park has landed shows Jim Barnett Park’s diversity, Veach said.
“I think it would be great if we could be seen as a quote-unquote sports destination,” he said. “I see this as a building block to the next event.”
Board member Dario Savarese suggested that a local tournament could be held beforehand with the winner earning a spot in the tour event.
Though the event won’t have the economic impact of one on the scale of the Cal Ripken World Series, Veach said he’ll encourage participants to arrive early for the tournament and stay afterward. A host hotel will be established via a bid process, and local hospitality partners will be solicited to be included in weekend packages.
Board members also:
Were told by board member Rebecca Ebert that Shenandoah University is vacating its 200 square feet of exhibit space in the Visitor Center and that staff will program the space to highlight local attractions. Community organizations can apply to provide displays, which will rotate.
Were told that the area’s 2013 visitor guides are expected to be available in February, a departure from the usual April publication and distribution date.
Attending the meeting at the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor Center were Chairman Dan Martin and board members Eric Campbell, Rebecca Ebert, Bill Hottel, John Marker, Nancy “Tootie” Rinker and Dario Savarese. Board members Sue Robinson and Raniee Simpson were absent.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org