EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -Starting on Wednesday, the USSSA Fast Pitch “Great Lakes Nationals” will bring 220 teams from 10 different states to the City of Evansville.
On Tuesday night, organizers of the tournament held a coaches meeting to discuss tournament rules and added measures put in to place due to COVID-19.
“They’ve been looking forward to this,” said Louisville, Ky. Coach, Raymond Bernhagen. “Wasn’t sure it was going to happen, the fact that Indiana stepped up and put rules in place to allow us to do this, I think it’s great.”
With hundreds - if not thousands - of people expected for the event, organizers have taken extra precautions for the safety of attendees.
“We’re following the 4.5 guidelines that the Governor has put out,” said President & CEO of Visit Evansville, Jim Wood. “We’ve put signs out for people to make sure they sit in family groups in the grandstands, or push themselves out and sit around the field to maintain that 6 feet apart.”
“The schedule is very, very tight. Once a team is here and they’re playing, when they’re done, they’re gone. That’s how we scheduled it so there wouldn’t be a lot of lingering or loitering around the park afterwards to maintain a lighter-attended atmosphere."
Hand sanitizer dispensers are placed throughout the parks and every player was given a face mask. Additional face masks will also be available at concession stands throughout the tournament.
“These last few tournaments that we’ve had at the park here have been a tune-up for this big tournament,” said Wood.
Teams that are set to play in the tournament say they feel safe.
“Our girls are used to being precautious,” said Nashville, IL Coach, Tricia Popejoy. “I know they may have to wear masks when we go to restaurants and shopping but our kids can handle that.”
“Every team has their own set of rules as well,” stated Bernhagen. “We have a group of parents that clean the dugout, we have another group of parents that make sure all their hands are clean when they’re done. I think everyone has taken enough precautions, this is our 4th tournament this year and haven’t had any incidents.”
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke even commented on the safety precautions surrounding the tournament.
“If players, managers, parents - anyone who is participating - if they take the right precautions, if they wear a mask when they’re not socially distanced, if they continue to wash their hands, if they continue to do the things we’ve been talking about for months – I’m confident that tournament can be a success for the community and there won’t be correlating increase in cases. But people have to take their personal responsibilities to do the right thing,” said Winnecke.
Three different facilities will be used for the tournament: Deaconess Sports Park, Newburgh Sports Complex and Boonville Youth Park.
The tournament, which begins Wednesday, is slated to bring an estimated $4.6 million economic impact to the Evansville-Vanderburgh Region.