BY MELANIE BUCK –
Coach Ray Hunter and Mena High School are gearing up to host their first Arkansas AAA State Softball Tournament slated for play May 14-16. Coach Hunter said the school has bid on the tournament for the last two years and were finally able to win that bid this year. Hunter said that the AAA (Arkansas Activities Association) was attracted to Mena’s new facilities and had seen how Mena High had handled the regional tournament last year.
The economic impact of such a tournament on a community can be huge. Twelve teams will play in the tournament and eight of those teams will have to stay at least one night, filling local hotels. Also, most will eat 3-4 times while in town, giving business to local eateries. Coach Hunter pointed out that most softball parents travel with the teams, tripling the number of out-of-towners that will be in the area, requiring more hotel stays and more meals. And, with each team having only one game a day, the visitors will have many hours to use to take advantage of the area’s sights and activities.
Coach Hunter said the tournament will be filled with high-quality softball and encourages Ladycat fans to pack the stands. “I look forward to having the tournament here and if we make it in, I want to see how many fans we can get here,” Hunter said.
Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO) Chair Gar Eisele said, “We’re always excited at any opportunity to showcase our community and these upcoming play-offs are certainly no exception. These kids come in here with their families that may have never otherwise have came to Mena. They see how beautiful it is and discover the shopping and recreational opportunities and may very well return for a vacation. The positive economic impact isn’t over after the play-offs.”