The Ripken Experience Drives Business to Cities

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Cal Ripken was a two-time American League MVP, but his sports tourism game is pretty strong, too. Consider the affect his facilities have on host cities.

The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge

Cal Ripken Baseball put $22.5 million in this new facility, which is estimated to generate $40 million annually in sports tourism for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. With six fields modeled after professional ballparks—including Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, where Cal Ripken was a hero—The Ripken Experience also has elite training equipment and batting cages, as well as a two-level, 14,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse overlooking the playing grounds. In its first three months, the facility is responsible for $6.7 million generated from the 363 teams from 23 states who have already played there.

The Ripken Experience Aberdeen

The original Maryland Ripken facility, opened in 2002 and dedicated to Cal Sr., includes replicas of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field on 60-ft. and 70-ft. fields for 12-and-under teams. An on-site Marriott hotel resembles the warehouse adjacent Camden Yards in Baltimore. Greg Pizzuto, executive director of Visit Harford (Maryland), says a recent study of the past three years reveals the facility’s 46 annual youth tournaments have brought in an average of 1,700 teams (more than 24,000 players), not including fans and family. “As far as economic impact and driving people to Harford County, Ripken Baseball is No. 1,” he says.

The Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach

Opened in June 2006, the nine-field baseball a nd softball facility in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, expanded the concept proven in Maryland. Four fields are regulation-size for high school groups, and five are youth-size diamonds. Nods to history here include the fabled Polo Grounds (New York City) and Griffith Stadium (Washington, D.C.). The Jennie Finch Tournament Series is bringing two weeklong softball events to the venue in 2016, adding to the facility’s major economic impact. Bobby Holland, general manager of The Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach, says the venue draws 1,200 amateur baseball and softball teams, including a group from Melbourne, Australia, per year. All told, the venue generates $28 million to $30 million annually for the vacation hub with short, two-day tournaments and weeklong events. While it is not a pay-to-play site, the facility is responsible for about 25,000 room nights per year through partner hotels, adds Holland.