CRYSTAL LAKE – When Jack Sebesta helped start a large, international youth baseball tournament, he thought it could help local hotels and restaurants.
He didn’t realize it would become such a boon for the local Hostess sales.
“I have a buddy who drives a Hostess route and he told me sales go up 35 percent during the tournament,” Sebesta said, noting gas stations in particular run out of the treats quickly when hundreds of young baseball players come to town. “You never really think about those things, but it affects so many places.”
From causing increased sales of pain medications at Walgreens to becoming the Crystal Lake Best Buy’s second busiest time of the year behind the holidays, the McHenry County Youth Sports Association’s Summer International Baseball Championships have become as much about the benefits off the field as on it.
Hundreds of players from dozens of teams around the region and other parts of the world such as Puerto Rico and Japan have brought millions of dollars to the region over the years.
Jaki Berggren, executive director of Visit McHenry County, said even the low-end estimates of what the weeklong tournament brings are impressive.
She said if 4,000 people attended the tournament, they would on average create $81 a day of economic impact if they were day travelers and $122 a day if they stayed overnight. If no one stayed overnight, the tournament would still create roughly $1.6 million for the area while it would create $2.4 million if everyone stayed overnight.
Those numbers would be higher if the event drew more than 4,000 people, which she said it very well could.
The biggest benefit, she said, might be the precedent the tournament has set as it shows other organizers that McHenry County can handle large events. The tournament has paved the way for events such as Tough Mudder, which drew 15,000 people to Richmond in May.
“Having the longevity and history of [the tournament] is great because it shows we can handle these big events,” Berggren said. “We can use that to sell the county as a destination to organizers for future events.”
Local businesses have done so well the tournament has started to attract outside companies. Baseball Youth, located in Morehead, Ken., had tents set up by the Lippold Park fields to show off products from the multiple companies it represents.
Baseball Youth employee Zach Werner said the tournament provided a great opportunity for direct contact with potential customers and the setup allowed for families to check out the tents in between games.
“It’s great for the companies we represent because we’re meeting the customers where they are at,” Werner said. “We’ve had a great turnout so far.”
Sebesta, a former chairman for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, said he is glad to see the event become such an economic driver, but the core mission remains to give local athletes the opportunity to interact with and compete against children from around the country and world.
And as the event has grown bigger off the field, it is still those interactions on the field that captivate players such as 12-year-old Richie Mack.
“It’s really cool to see kids from other countries play and see how they play,” said Mack, who plays for Algonquin’s Team PowerPipe. “You can see people from Colorado or Puerto Rico and you don’t even have to drive 30 minutes. They come to us and that’s really cool.”
For more information on the tournament, visit www.mcysasports.org.