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Baseball tourney a home run for Porter County tourism

Updated: August 19, 2013 2:06PM



CHESTERTON ­— A baseball tournament this week at Chesterton High School will not only bring hundreds of people to the community, but also fits in with the Indiana Dunes Tourism’s new mission to increase sports tourism in the county.

The tournament, which begins Thursday and continues through Sunday, is expected to fill 700 hotel rooms and generate tens of thousands of dollars, according to tourism officials.

The Babe Ruth Ohio Valley Regional Tournament features 12 teams from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. This is the first time Porter County has hosted the tournament.

The tourism bureau has hired Conventions, Sports and Leisure International to do a sports feasibility study for the county, in tandem with a study the firm is doing on the Porter County Expo Center. Both are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The sports study will look at supply and demand for different sports, how to manage facilities, and a financial analysis, including maintenance, operations and revenue, said Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism.

A sports cabinet, through the tourism agency, is serving a steering committee for the project and is helping gather much of the information CSL needs in advance of a late August visit to Porter County, she added.

Options for the county could include a hockey rink, a domed sports arena similar to the one recently constructed in Crown Point, and a natatorium for swimming events.

“Sports is a niche market of ours,” Weimer said, adding 79 percent of the county’s tourism is leisure, 17 percent is for business, and 4 percent is for sports, “but we know we have an opportunity to grow that.”

Events like the Ohio Valley tournament showcase Porter County as a destination and bring in visitors who may not have come here otherwise, she said, adding for some families, the tournament’s long weekend is their summer vacation.

Down time during the tournament — or any future sports events — also gives visitors the opportunity to explore the dunes and other Porter County attractions.

“I look at us as being a great place for sports because we’re a great family market,” she said.

Four hotels in the county blocked off rooms for the baseball tournament. At the Comfort Inn and Suites in Porter, the tournament has 45 of the hotel’s 70 rooms.

“My hotel is sold out Thursday through Sunday,” sales manager Frank Maenza said. “It’s a sales manager’s dream.”

He hopes the tournament returns next year and for years to come, and he’s all for the county expanding sports tourism with new facilities.

“We could do even more tournaments, even a conference tournament,” he said, “and it looks like the area is growing.”



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