Over the last year, the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau (FSCVB) has been working diligently to increase our visibility amongst a niche group of event planners who bring large regional and national sports tournaments to various cities. But, there are those in the community that have played a big part in securing—or in this case, even planning—this type of business for the city for many, many years. In fact, if not for these men and women, FSCVB would have to work even more diligently to increase awareness of Fort Smith in what is possibly the most competitive category of convention and meeting sales. For that reason, we are proud to announce our newest Hometown Hospitality Hero, Mike Bock!
A native of Fort Smith, Mike started coaching the First Christian Church & Christ the King baseball program in 1964 and later hosted the Arkansas State Youth Co-ed Tournament for ages 7-15. In 1988, he began coaching softball and would be asked to serve as President of the Sebastian County Girls Softball Association just 7 years later. Over his tenure, he has helped attract a countless amount of competitive baseball and softball teams, as well as thousands of young athletes and their parents to Fort Smith from Texarkana, Little Rock, Cabot, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and many other cities.
In fact, when the Sebastian County Girls Softball Association hosted its very first State Tournament, there were roughly 12 teams that participated. This past year, after Ben Geren Regional Park welcomed more than 50 different league teams—ages 6-14—for an entire week, another 43 teams would travel to Fort Smith from Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and more, to compete in a National Tournament. By our own estimation, the National Tournament alone would have brought somewhere in the ballpark of (pun intended) of 2,193 players, coaches, parents and others who travel with the teams to Fort Smith. Over the course of one weekend, that would equate to roughly 1,462 overnight stays in Fort Smith Hotels and a healthy amount of business at local attractions, restaurants, shopping centers and other types of businesses.
Clearly, sports tourism can have a major positive impact on the local economy, but securing business from sports event planners—as with sports—is very competitive. However, the FSCVB has a secret weapon in individuals like Mike. Through their efforts, we are able to talk about existing National youth tournaments that take place in Fort Smith, which really sets us apart to sports event planners. In other words, because of people like Mike, Fort Smith will always be ready to PLAY BALL!
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