FLORENCE — The chances for the city to host a Memorial Day weekend softball tournament that would bring in some 40 teams from outside the area appear bleak.

Florence-Lauderdale Tourism President/CEO Rob Carnegie told the Tourism Board on Thursday that the tournament organizer said he has not been able to secure the spot for a tournament that weekend at the Florence Sportsplex.

Carnegie said tournament host Kevin Darby also had intended to have an autumn tournament at the sportsplex.

"Kevin is at the point where he's so frustrated that he's ready to pull two tournaments," Carnegie said. "So we are losing a spring and fall tournament. These are both 40-team tournaments."

Carnegie said the economic impact from each tournament could come close to the $600,000 impact of last year's high school softball regional tournament.

City officials said the field needs to be available to city softball and baseball leagues. That includes adult softball leagues and youth baseball and softball leagues.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Tina Kitchens said there is a thin time line for getting in all the local league baseball and softball seasons, as well as summer youth seasons and summer youth tournaments.

Kitchens said hundreds of youths and adults play in the spring leagues.

"Since we've had so much growth in our youth leagues, we've started our adult season a little bit later so we can have more field time during the week," she said.

Events such as spring break and weather concerns leave very little wriggle room, Kitchens said. In addition, they want to have spring ball completed before people get out of school and families take summer vacations. After that, all-star leagues and other summer-league tournaments often fill the sportsplex.

If spring games have to be made up due to rain, that can force them to have to be made up during Memorial Day weekend, Kitchens said.

"We don't like to play Memorial Day weekend but if we get rain-outs, we only have two Saturdays available," she said. "And we are going to get rain somewhere in the season."

Kitchens said she welcomes tournaments and hopes Darby is able to have a tournament here another weekend, but logistically it does not work out for Memorial Day weekend.

In addition, a triathlon is that weekend, and the cycling portion is Sunday and would involve closing Alabama 20, which leads into the complex, she said.

Kitchens said she asked Carnegie if she could have until Feb. 23 for a final decision, because that is the deadline for city league teams to register, and she would know how many would be participating. However, she added, "Based on last year's numbers we'll be playing through May 29 if we have as many as last year's teams."

Rain-outs could push that date into Memorial Day weekend.

Carnegie said there often are multiple events on the same weekend in Florence and around the Shoals, and the cycling portion of the triathlon would be completed by 10 a.m. Sunday.

Board members said they are worried what something like this could do to Florence's reputation as a tournament-friendly location.

"This could be a black eye for us," board member David Muhlendorf said.

One hotelier at Thursday's meeting said she already has an entire team for the tournament booked for Memorial Day weekend.

Mayor Steve Holt said there are only so many days of playing time available for youth sports.

"The tournaments are great, so it's a hard balance," Holt said. "A big part of why Parks and Recreation exists is for the kids."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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