Medford's new sports park has been selected to host a major softball tournament that could bring at least $400,000 into the local economy.

Medford's new sports park has been selected to host a major softball tournament that could bring at least $400,000 into the local economy.

The U.S. Cellular Community Park between Highway 99 and Interstate 5 in south Medford was chosen this past weekend to host the American Softball Association Western National 10-and-under girls' fastpitch tournament in 2010.

As many as 48 teams from 12 states will come to Medford during the first week of August 2010 for the five-day tournament.

"This was really the initial step in providing the community with return on investment," said Rich Rosenthal, recreation superintendant with the Medford Parks and Recreation Department. Rosenthal made the successful bid for the tournament during a regional ASA meeting in Portland.

Anne Jenkins, senior vice president of the Medford Visitors and Convention Bureau, said it's good news for the local economy.

"I couldn't be more thrilled to have that tournament here," Jenkins said.

She said her conservative estimates suggest the tournament could bring $400,000 to $500,000 in new money into the valley for hotels, restaurants and other visitor attractions. The estimates do not include air travel into town.

By comparison, she estimated the direct economic impact of the annual Memorial Day weekend Rogue Valley Cup soccer tournament at $550,000 to $600,000.

Brian Sjothun, parks director, said the city is forming a committee that will help organize activities such as jet boat rides, rafting trips, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays for families visiting during the tournament.

"There's a lot more that goes on than just the softball," he said, adding that some people use the tournament week as a family vacation.

He said cities bid for such tournaments two years in advance, and being chosen is a feather in Medford's cap.

Medford vied for four Western National youth tournaments against established facilities in Salem, Hillsboro, Spokane and Yakima. Teams from Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Montanta, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii will come for the softball tournament.

Sjothun said one of the reasons Medford was selected is the city's proximity to California, which will send a number of teams.

Rosenthal said he will return to the ASA regional meeting in 2009 to make a pitch for larger 14-,16- and 18-year-old tournaments for the 2011 season.

Medford is already set to host 19 youth and adult tournaments for Oregon teams from June through December, said Rosenthal.

The 132-acre, $30 million park is expected to be completed over the next three years. In addition to Harry & David Field, which is already completed, it will include two high school baseball fields, seven softball and youth baseball fields, a championship soccer and football stadium, five field-sport areas and the Jefferson Nature Center.

Playgrounds, trails and parking also are part of the plan. The five-field softball complex, now under construction, should be ready in May. The field-sport areas should be ready in 2009.

Development of the sports park is funded through a $2.56 increase (over the previous 31-cent monthly fee) in the city's park fee, which is included on monthly utility bills. The Medford City Council approved the increase in 2006.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.