The calendars have been pretty full for softball and baseball youth tournaments at Jack C. Fisher Park and Panther Creek Park this spring and summer.
That’s been good news for Visit Owensboro and its sports director Jared Bratcher.
“We’ve had tournaments every weekend, we started early, in February,” Bratcher said. “Kentucky Wesleyan had the first softball tournament and we reopened the park. We still had social distancing then.”
That is not the case now that most outdoor crowd mandates have been lifted from COVID-19.
“We’re not back to 100% (full tournaments), but we’re sure there’s still some teams not playing full schedules, crowds are still down,” Bratcher said. “But there’s an event every weekend at Fisher Park. Most people are still using bag chairs, which a lot of them were doing anyway. We have no bleachers back yet, and there are some noticeable changes here and there, but we’re hoping as we’re moving forward by the fall we will move back to full capacity.”
Both the All ‘A’ Classic state softball and the Class 2-A state softball tournaments were at Kentucky Legend Fields at Fisher Park earlier this spring.
Having both those tournaments, along with baseball, in town created a bit of a scramble for hotel rooms, but both the organizations worked well together with schedules, and the atmosphere at Fisher was good with its multiple fields. There are also multiple softball/baseball fields at Panther Creek Park.
Moving deeper into the summer will bring more people to the outdoor sports complexes.
There will be two big events in July, the USSSA World Series youth baseball tournament July 8-11, then the NSA Girls’ World Series on July 14-18 that will use both Fisher and Panther Creek Parks.
“Those are massive events, national level events, and we will be able to get a feel for how we’re doing with big events coming back with those,” Bratcher said.
The baseball tournament will have teams from 8U to 13U, while the softball will be 8U to 18U. Those two events will have over 100 teams each in them.
Kentucky Legend Fields at Fisher Park underwent a $2.9 million renovation to four hybrid synthetic turf infields, replacing the irrigation system, improving infield drainage problems, adding batting cages, making practice field improvements, increasing parking and adding more seating, shade and a playground area.
Games at Fisher were able to play through rain interruptions during two recent weekends while other tournaments in the region were knocked off because of weather.
Recruiting events back to Owensboro wasn’t complicated because of the area’s reputation for putting on successful spring/summer baseball and softball events.
“This business in Owensboro started 20 years ago, before travel ball became a nation-wide thing, we kind of tripped into it,” Bratcher said. “We have been a leader, and Owensboro has a tremendous reputation as a sports town, it’s a great town for hospitality. People trust Owensboro, I didn’t have to go re-recruiting.”
There will be a little less activity in August for outdoor tournaments, but Bratcher was pleased with the reaction from teams and events wanting to get going again.
“Now we’re playing on fields nine months out of the year,” Bratcher said. “Most events are scheduling a year out.”