WOODSTOCK -- A class project has turned into something that spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y for the Community of O’Leary and West Prince.
Last year first-year students in the Holland College Sport and Leisure Management program put together a bid project simply as a learning exercise. “When it came back to me for review, it was, ‘wow.’ I’ve been involved with bid packages before at the national level for hockey and Eastern Canadian level and ‘Holy Smokes, this is actually pretty good,’” instructor Jeff Ellsworth said in explaining his reaction.
He invited O’Leary Recreation Director Tylan Robinson to take a look at the proposal. The students were asked what they thought, and the decision was made to submit it to Softball Canada.
Now, 174 days before the tournament’s first pitch is thrown Robinson is chair of the tournament’s host committee, Ellsworth is coach of the P.E.I. host team, and first and second year Sport and Leisure Management students are actively involved in helping the host committee plan for what Ellsworth says will be the first national championship for any sport to be held exclusively in West Prince.
There is no restriction on the number of teams that can register for the tournament and organizers are expecting around 20 to take part. Last year when O’Leary played in the Nationals in Brantford, Ontario, 21 teams took part.
Already, the host team, two from Ontario and one each from BC and Manitoba have confirmed their attendance.
The Ellis and Sports Centre fields in O’Leary and Memorial Field in Alberton are booked for the tournament. Provisions are being made to use other fields as far away as Summerside and Tignish should the number of teams far exceed 20 or if rain interferes with the schedule.
“I guess the word that characterizes this is opportunity,” said O’Leary Council chair Stanley MacDonald. “We have an opportunity in Western Prince Edward Island to do something unique.” He expressed confidence players and fans will arrive early or stay late to enjoy what the region and the province has to offer.
At a news conference held Wednesday at the Rodd Mill River Resort to officially announce the tournament, Softball Canada president, Kevin Quinn said the August 7 to 11 tournament will bring visitors and opportunity to West Prince.
“By hosting the Under 16 Girls in O’Leary, they will be bringing over a half million dollars in revenue to say the least into the province and into this community,” Quinn said. “With close to 500 athletes, coaches, team staff and officials and the numerous fans who will attend the event, we can be assured that the economy of O’Leary will receive a tremendous boost.”
To pull off the event, he added, requires many volunteers, strong leadership and sponsorship support.
Robinson said the host committee is already gathering names of people who can help fill the 1,400 volunteer hours needed to stage the tournament, and letters seeking sponsorship support are being mailed out this week.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our riding and our community for achieving this result, Tourism Minister and O’Leary-Inverness MLA, Robert Henderson commented. He noted O’Leary has a proud softball tradition.
Robinson said people he met while attending last year’s tournament in Ontario were excited about coming to O’Leary this year, and that interest has helped motivate and inspire the host committee.