ELIZABETHTOWN -- In the parking lot of the Elizabethtown Sports Park on almost any day last week, cars carried license plates ranging from Texas to Missouri to Maryland as the sound of pings off aluminum bats and cheering crowds echoed from the park's baseball diamonds.
Last Thursday was the last day for the annual Youth National's first Elizabethtown tournament in five different age groups. Two more tournaments will take place -- one beginning Friday and running through July 11 and a second one July 19-25.
Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau Executive Director Janna Clark said nearly 700 games will take place throughout the course of the three tournaments. She said 50 baseball teams from 16 states competed in the first tournament and 35 softball teams from 15 separate states, plus a Canadian team will compete in the second tournament, along with 37 baseball teams from 14 separate states and Canada. Teams in the third tournament have not yet been announced.
Since the Elizabethtown Sports Park began hosting the tournaments in 2013, the area has seen a substantial economic impact. According to the latest financial impact figures from 2017 via Sports Impacts LLC, it is estimated from tax collection data more than $4 million is spent locally by traveling teams, their coaches and families during these tournaments.
"The Nationals is a week-long event, so families have time to experience so many things in and around E-town," Clark said.
Clark said Elizabethtown has around 1,500 hotel rooms and when they are filled up by visitors from the tournament, they begin staying in surrounding communities such as Radcliff, Shepherdsville, Bardstown and Louisville.
According to Deborah Andrew, assistant manager at Baymont Inn & Suites in Elizabethtown, rooms fill up during tournament time. She said because of the high demand during the tournament weeks, the hotel hires extra staff to compensate for the extra work required to accommodate the high volume of guests.
"We've been sold out every night," Andrew said.
Red Lion Inn & Suites in Elizabethtown General Manager Casandra Turner said the hotel also was at full capacity during the first tournament.
"It brings not only hotel business but business to our small businesses and restaurants and just the community itself," she said.
The Elizabethtown Sports Park features 12 lighted baseball and softball diamonds, covered brick dugouts, bullpens for relief pitchers, wireless scoreboards, shaded seating and more.
Arturo Montes, a coach with the Rio Grande Valley Recon team out of Edinburg, Texas, said he is not surprised such a large-scale tournament series is held at the Elizabethtown Sports Park. He said as opposed to ballparks he is used to in southern Texas, the weather in Kentucky is ideal for ballpark upkeep.
"The ballpark is amazing," he said. "We have ballparks similar to this back home but because of the heat, you cannot keep grass the way you do here."
Montes said although his family stayed in Louisville for the tournament, they made a point to dine and spend money in Elizabethtown as a way to give back to the tournament's hosting city.
"Elizabethtown is beautiful," he said. "It is very hospitable."