Lumberton – About six weeks after the Dixie World Junior Championships, which were held in Lumberton from August 5-11, the impact of the event on the community is starting to become more evident.
More than 1,500 out-of-town visitors came to Lumberton to attend, and contributed more than $800,000 to the Lumberton and Robson County economy during the tournament, the Lumberton Visitors Bureau said.
“I think he’s been a very good impact on Lumberton, and I think the city has seen that impact,” said Tim Locklear, president of the Lumberton Youth Baseball Association. “Hopefully we’ll have similar events in the future so we can get Lumberton back on the map again. I think we’re from a baseball point of view. I think Dixie Youth and the baseball world know who we are.”
The city hosted its third World Championships, following the Division I Championship held in Lumberton in 2018 and the Division Two event in 2019. This year’s First Division Championship, like two previous ones, was played at Dr. Raymond B. Stadium. Bennington Sports Complex on Linkhaw Road in Northeast Lumberton.
The Lumberton Visitors Bureau worked with area merchants and organizations to provide more than 400 “Welcome to Lumberton” bags that were distributed at the coaches meeting held at Lumberton High School. Teams from 11 states from the southeast participated in the event. The office verified with Lumberton area hotels that more than 1,600 hotel rooms were used for the event.
The North Carolina Sports Association estimates that each person visiting Lumberton for this event spent $150 per day from their visit, including accommodations, dining, shopping, activities, shopping, transportation, etc.
“Sports tourism is a growing part of the travel industry, and we are excited to work with LYBA, the City of Lumberton and other sporting entities in our region to develop and attract more events like the Dixie Youth World Series to our community,” Arnold West, Chair of the Lumberton Tourism Development Authority, who oversees Lumberton Visitors Bureau.
Several volunteers helped make the event a success; This includes host families. Each team had a local family to act as a “host” and help them find their way around the community and answer questions about their stay.
“I’ve had government administrators reach out, trying to contact these host families so they can send thanks and gifts, and that made all the difference for me,” Leclerc said. “We have a beautiful garden – but it’s not just about the facility, it’s about getting the community together and showing our hospitality, and it’s made an impact.”
Having hosted three World Championships since 2018, her Dixie Youth Baseball is relieved to hold her tournaments in Lumberton. League and city officials alike were delighted with the way this year’s tournament unfolded.
“I thought we put in a really good show,” LYBA treasurer Bruce Mullis said. “We were constantly asked, when are we going to do that again, are we going to bid in a couple of years, and that speaks volumes about Lumberton and LYBA, and all the things that we’ve done to try and make the experience will be a great experience for the kids, which was the main reason to bring the world championships here, as well as support The community. The community has supported us greatly.”
That future, at this point, is unclear. What is certain is that the city will not host the World Championships in 2023 or 2024, as a bid for the tournament will be held for two years; Bids for the 2024 World Championships were heard during Dixie Youth Board meetings held at Robeson Community College during this year’s tournament.
“It was our third; it’s a lot of work, a lot of volunteers,” Leclerc said. “If that’s something we want to do for 2025 or 2026, we’re going to have to sit down with the city.”
In addition to wanting to “take a break” after hosting three world championships recently, there are question marks about how the Bennington complex will hold up compared to other facilities being built or expanding throughout the Southeast.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get another Dixie Youth World here, just because there are a lot of other communities that have their facilities – they’re building $30 million facilities in some of these communities across the Southeast in different places, they can do multiple things with Mollis said.
Dixie Youth’s chart for her championships, when holding the world championships for three age divisions as she did at Lumberton, is for six; The Bennington complex has a sixth field away from the pinwheel, but has only used the five-field propeller in the world championships it has hosted. Mullis believes Dixie Youth Baseball is looking to foster more World Championship events — between the four age divisions in Division One and Division Two, there are eight — that will take place in the same venue as possible.
Future plans for the Bennington complex, approved in April 2021 by Lumberton City Council, include softball and soccer fields and a disc golf course, as well as other non-sporting amenities including a sprinkle pad, dog park, concert park and expanded walking trails.
“I don’t know that they will reward Lumberton, though from an organizational point of view, from a hospitality point of view, all those details they like; but I think our facility must grow.” Until we build the other four fields, and I don’t know how many It’s going to take time — it’s going to be up to the mayor, city council and citizens to come up and say we’re going to build the rest of this.”
While Mullis said LYBA’s relationship with Dixie Youth Baseball has never been stronger, he expects the organization to switch to hosting state and county-level tournaments for now, while also making sure the Lumberton Softball Association has a “fair” use of the pool. Bennington and left the door open for him to host similar events in the future.
But whether or not Lumberton ever hosts the Dixie Youth World Series again in the future, the leaders are pleased with the organizational results of the tournaments hosted in the city.
“As far as I know, everyone has gone too far and feels great about Lumberton,” Mullis said. “Our hospitality has been second to none in all the three World Championships we have hosted; that was one of the big takeaways we got from the Dixie Officials this time and the last two World Championships, and our community has skyrocketed.”
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.