At its first meeting of the new year on Thursday afternoon, the Hope Tourism Commission heard from Pete Pessel, a regional baseball promoter from Texarkana, about bringing a 12-year-old tournament to Hope sometime in March.

At its first meeting of the new year on Thursday afternoon, the Hope Tourism Commission heard from Pete Pessel, a regional baseball promoter from Texarkana, about bringing a 12-year-old tournament to Hope sometime in March.
For AAU, it would be the tournament’s first visit in Hope, and it would likely be the catalyst for other age divisions and groups.
Pessel said AAU teams don’t have a lot of site choices between Little Rock and Dallas.
“Many of the tournaments are in Dallas, Benton, Conway, Shreveport, but I believe Hope is a good location where we could get 20 or more teams in here,” Pessel said.
Pessel said that by his estimates, the average traveling baseball team brings between $800 to $1,000 into a local hosting economy for each tournament day.
“There are the team hotel rooms, meals, concessions; if you have 20 teams in here, then that multiplies significantly,” he said.
Sharon Caldwell, chair of the Tourism Commission, said “We are very interested in this; something like this is what we would like to draw in here.”
Paul Henley, of Hope’s Parks & Recreation, asked what it would take to secure the new AAU tournament in Hope.
Locally, Pessel said quality of facilities and costs of facilities were major factors. He said he was impressed with Hope because it has made efforts to improve its facilities.
“You have something like they have in Dallas, and it is $1,000 per day. They have a $12 million park facility with several fields like a miniature Ranger Stadium. Some places in Texarkana are $300 a weekend,” he said.
One of the main draws for Hope is the location, in which, Pessel said would be an attractive alternative between Dallas or Shreveport and Little Rock.
“Teams are looking for places to play.  Someone in Texarkana may not be able to drive to Little Rock for a tournament, but they can come to Hope and be back home in 30 minutes,” he said.
Other costs associated with the proposed tournament are championship rings and qualified umpires, which Pessel said was a huge expense.
Pessel said today’s teams are more interested in competition, and he said “rings have replaced trophies for these kids.”
If successful, Pessel said that future AAU tournaments could find their way to Hope, and that there were plenty of teams looking for venues to play.
“I would say there are over 100 different teams within a 100-mile radius of Hope,” he said.
The Tourism Commission was still meeting at the Hope Star’s press deadline early Thursday evening for Friday’s edition.