Grand slam weekend

Marietta College is hosting the 2014 Ohio Athletic Conference baseball tournament as well as conducting commencement exercises this week, which translates to a boost for the local economy.

“There will be at least four teams competing in the OAC tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week with about 25 members on each team, including staff and coaches. And we typically have around 2,000 people in attendance during graduation,” said Tom Perry, executive director for strategic communications and marketing at Marietta College.

He said this week’s events will be the first of two big weekends sports-wise.

“We’ll also be hosting the regional baseball tournament next weekend, which will be much larger, with six to eight teams participating,” Perry said.

The baseball action takes place at Don Schaly Field on Pike Street, where one of the nearest eateries is Stoked Coffee at 302 Pike.

“We do see some increased business when there are games going on at the ball field. If it’s a cold night people will come in for a hot drink, and if it’s a warm day they might order an iced coffee or tea,” said Holly Males, assistant manager.

She said the uptick in business is not always large, but there’s a noticeable increase in foot traffic at the store.

Linda Kring, a manager at Bar-B-Cutie, 113 Pike St., said folks attending games or other college-related events often stop in for a meal.

“Especially people from out of town who have heard about us,” she said. “We do get busy during those weekends, mostly with families coming in for various college events.”

Tony Styer, co-owner of The Marietta Brewing Company on Front Street, said the upcoming weekend will be huge.

“We usually tell our staff members not to plan days off during that time,” he said. “We’ve already had a lot of calls from people asking if we’re open Sunday-we’re open every Sunday. Families are celebrating graduation, but it’s also Mother’s Day. And anytime there’s a baseball or basketball tournament at Marietta College we get a lot of business.”

Hotels also benefit from visiting teams, staff and families.

“We’re pretty booked for the weekend,” said Angie Seevers, associate with the Fairfield Inn and Suites off Ohio 7, just north of Marietta.

“These events help increase weekend stays and we need it,” she said. “It’s a welcome boost for our business. Weekdays we’re basically pretty full with business travelers, but college events can help keep those rooms filled on weekends, too.”

Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Marietta College draws a lot of people off I-77 and into the Marietta area.

“The college brings people not only for academic purposes, but also for these athletic events,” she said. “They eat at our restaurants, stay at local hotels, and shop our stores, adding to our tourism which generates more economic activity here.”

Knowlton said May is traditionally the kickoff month for the local tourism season.

“And the other thing is that Marietta has a very high return visitor rate,” she added. “If people come here for a first visit due to an athletic or other college event, they’ll often return for a longer stay to explore more of the area.”

Thanks in part to the college events, it’s becoming more difficult to find a hotel room in Marietta, said Charlotte Keim, executive director of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Kudos to Marietta College for hosting this weekend’s baseball tournament,” she said. “A lot of our businesses rely on these events that generate more spending by visitors.”

Keim noted that athletic teams from out of town often include an entourage of staff, family, friends and fans who will spend time and money in Marietta.

“And visitors always say how friendly people are in this area,” she said. “That includes all of us, not just business owners or hoteliers.”

Visitors traveling to Don Schaly Field for the OAC tournament will find the road surface milled off in that area of Pike Street in preparation for asphalt paving. Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman David Rose said there may be some road work on Thursday and Friday along Pike Street, weather permitting, but added that no maintenance of traffic issues are expected there over the weekend.