Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 16, 2013

Home run for local economy

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Summer fun isn’t the only thing coming to the region along with the arrival of Appalachian League Baseball.

Millions of dollars in tourism and business revenue are accrued in the area from players, coaches, fans and visitors coming to enjoy America’s pastime.

Keith Circle with the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce said Princeton Rays General Manager Jim Holland has indicated the two teams — the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays — bring in approximately $7 million to Mercer County.

“Having the teams here is a big deal,” Circle said. “Between the Princeton team and the Bluefield team, the economic impact is around $7 million for the Bluefield and Princeton areas. The players, coaches and staffers aren’t paid by an entity located in Mercer County, but they do spend the money they earn here at grocery stores, hotels and restaurants. That is new money coming in to Mercer County.”

Circle said the teams and team staff are not the only people who spend dollars in Mercer County during the summer season.

“People coming in to see the teams spend money as well as the opposing teams, their families, coaches and staff,” Circle said. “All of these people come in, stay in our hotels, shop and eat here.”

Marc Meachum, executive director of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, said the Appalachian League helps bring in money to the county during the slower summer season.

“It is a great opportunity for all of Mercer County,” Meachum said. “The Appalachian League is one of the largest periods of economic development that happens each year in Mercer County. They bring in a lot of tourism dollars and development to the area, especially during summer when a lot of economic development slows.”

Meachum said the visitors who come in to watch the baseball games can then return home to tell more people about what Four Seasons Country has to offer.

“We not only have the Jays and Rays coming in for the summer but the visiting teams as well,” Meachum said. “These teams and their families come in to eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels. They shop locally while they are here. The players’ families come in to see them and often travel long distances, so they end up staying for several weeks. In addition to spending their money, they also promote the tourism of Mercer County and the surrounding area when they return home.”

Marie Blackwell, executive director of the Mercer County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said a lot of money is spent in the area by fans coming to see the games.

“We do have people that follow the teams and stay overnight here,” Blackwell said. “It’s great family entertainment for this area. We are all fortunate to have both the ball clubs here. It makes our area unique in that we have two teams in one area. The numbers we get on our weekly lodging reports spike when the teams are in the area for the summer and our lodging revenues also increase.”

 Additionally, Blackwell said baseball fans also spend much of their time exploring the local area before catching an evening game.

“We see a lot of them stop by here to get brochures and information about the area,” Blackwell said. “They don’t just come to see the games. They do a lot of activities before going to see the games.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com