PICKENS COUNTY — The loss of the Big league World Series could potentially have serious impacts to Upstate South Carolina as a major source of tourism dollars.
According to a study by Clemson University, the series annually generates nearly $800,000 in revenue for the county — and not just in Easley — but county wide.
“You have the players that stay up in the dorms over at Clemson, but then you also have their families, friends and whoever else comes with them,” said Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell. “And they stay in hotels. They eat at restaurants. They fly in and they rent cars. Financially, it’s a big event and we’ve been proud to host it.”
Little League International recently announced a restructuring of the league’s divisions, capping the age at 16. The move eliminated 17- and 18-year-olds from play and effectively ended the BLWS.
The Senior League World Series (SLWS), previously played in Bangor, Maine, was moved to Easley in its place but with no template or data to draw from, it is not yet known how the move will affect the county financially.
Bagwell stated that he hoped because the SLWS was comprised of younger kids that more of the players’ family members will travel with the teams but ultimately, he agreed the city was taking a risk.
“We didn’t have to take it (the series),” he said. “This wasn’t our decision to change the divisions, this was all decided by Little League officials. But once they had decided, they came to us and asked us if we wanted it.”
League officials have stated that the decision to move the SLWS was based on many factors but that the availability of the Clemson dorms combined with Pickens County’s proximity to major airports helped to seal the deal.
Still, Easley city officials are proceeding with caution and according to Bagwell are taking the new SLWS “one year at a time.”
“Yeah, we’ll give it a try this year and see how it goes,” he said. “They’ve (Little League officials) assured me that the final game will still be aired on ESPN.”
The JB Red Owens Sports Complex represents a multi-million dollar facility to the city of Easley and the BLWS was previously the largest event held at the complex annually.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.