Columbia Playfield looks to expand

RICHLAND, Wash. -- It's a true-life "If you build it, they will come." Richland is looking to invest $500,000 in a softball field, with plans to turn it into millions.

Richland hosted the 1A State Softball Tournament at the Columbia Playfield. The city expects the two-day event brought in nearly $200,000 to our area - and this was one of the smaller tournaments.

"Sports is significant in our area," said Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau Director of Sports Development Hector Cruz. "With the location that we are in the Northwest, we're able to host sports tournaments year-round, and so sports generates a big part of the business here in Tri-Cities."

Senior park planner Dave Bryant wants to make even more tourism dollars by adding another softball field. His plan is to move the current Little League field to Claybell Park in south Richland. A fifth softball field would be installed in its place at Columbia Playfield.

"Adding one more field can add eight to ten teams in a softball tournament for a weekend, so if it's even a two- or maybe a three-day tournament, that can be tens of thousands of dollars for the local economy," said Bryant.

Making the switch will cost $500,000. The district will pitch in some, but money will also come from the hotel-motel tax.

"When the teams come in for a tournament, they are out there spending their new dollars that come from out of town and they get spent locally in our market.," said Cruz.

And the proof is in the numbers. Last year, the Tri-Cities booked 60 sports tournaments which brought in over $13 million. So far this year, the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau has booked 53 events, and more continue to come in. They expect a value of at least $15 million.

"We can host national tournaments and that can draw thousands of people that generate millions of dollars in a two-day or a three-day tournament," said Cruz.

Richland staff say they expect the new softball field to be ready for use by spring of next year.

The tourism industry doesn't break down tournaments by cities, so we don't know what was made at the Southridge Sports Complex versus Pasco's soccer fields. They lump the figures in together after every weekend.