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NWI must capitalize on youth tournaments, other events

The Times
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Thousands of visitors flocked to Northwest Indiana, and particularly Crown Point, last month for the National Softball Association Northern World Series. So many folks visited that the city is considering a hotel for its future development plans. Scores of additional visitors are congregating in the Region this week, thanks to the nationwide Cal Ripken World Series being hosted in Hammond. Opening ceremonies drew players, coaches and others associated with 10 participating teams in the age 10 and younger tournament. Hammond, Crown Point and other Region communities have shown great foresight by investing in top-notch sports facilities — including the Hammond Optimist Sports Complex and the Crown Point youth sports complex — to draw in such tourism-attracting tournaments. Now our Region must figure out how to take opportunities afforded by these tournaments — and other Region events that draw significant attendance — to the next level. Tournaments, fairs and festivals, including Whiting’s recently concluded Pierogi Fest, do more than put our Region on the map in promoting a positive image. They attract spending by visitors, players, coaches and families who travel to take in the competitions. How much are we doing to highlight other Region assets, such as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, to these visitors when they’re here? How many reasons are we giving them to come back beyond the tournaments? And when they’re here, what other cultural or leisure amenities do we offer? Crown Point Mayor David Uran is right to guide his city toward a possible hotel to house future visitors. Visitors attending youth sports tournaments or other city events must find hotel accommodations elsewhere in the Region. "We would like to see those families stay here," he said during a recent community gathering. Communities from Hammond to Crown Point and Dyer to Michigan City also should be thinking of ways to capitalize on a recent trend of youth sports tournaments being staged in Northwest Indiana. A growing Region hotel industry is a start. But our leaders also should be looking to other tourism assets that complement our Region's many special events. The tournaments have planted seeds of current and future development. It's time to grow and harvest the revenue.
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