The annual Grove City Alumni Softball Tournament and Homecoming Celebration Friday, July 27, through Sunday, July 29, will be a time of friendly competition and reconnecting with old friends.

Planning for both events takes a lot of effort before the first pitch can be thrown and the first "remember when" story is told.

"The logistics are time-consuming," said Eric Saxton, tournament director. "(It involves) filling out special-use forms, securing all the umpires, gathering supplies, fielding questions from team captains, making the brackets for an 89-team tournament, having plans for weather problems.

"We play games at three locations (Murfin Fields, 4570 Haughn Road; Fryer Park, 3899 Orders Road; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3730 Broadway), so there are diamond rental fees and paying people to prep the fields," Saxton said.

"Then you throw in site managers, two softballs for each game played -- and we'll have 14 games going at one time," he said.

In the 2017 softball tournament, 89 teams representing six decades of alumni competed in six divisions, Saxton said.

Tournament expenses

As most people would expect, there are a lot of incidental expenses involved in putting together a softball tournament.

The list is long, Saxton said, and includes scorecards, score books, United States Specialty Sports Association sanction fees and umpires.

"We use 28 umpires every hour," he said.

There is also the cost of trophies, championship T-shirts for the winning teams, fees that are paid to the Grove City Division of Police and Jackson Township Division of Fire for safety personnel working at the event, he said.

The city provides police officers for special duty during the alumni softball tournament.

Last year, the tournament paid the city a total of $4,916 in special-duty fees for two days of games, said Don Walters, the city's business and community relations officer.

The fire department provides two paramedics at the Fryer Park site only, said Lynn Bruno, Jackson Township's assistant administrator.

"The paramedics are at the field from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.," she said. "For a special event like this, we charge the group organizing the event a special- duty fee of $37 per hour per paramedic."

The paramedics are available to provide treatment for minor injuries, Bruno said.

"They don't transport," she said. "If someone needs to be taken to the hospital, we'll call in an engine to come and take them."

The township typically collects between $1,500 and $1,700 for the weekend paramedic service, Bruno said.

In 2016, the invoice totaled $1,702 for each paramedic working 23 hours over the weekend, she said.

The tournament organization pays fees to the city for use of the fields at Fryer Park, the Grove City Kids Association for the diamonds at Murfin Fields and Our Lady of Perpetual Help for games played at its site.

"Our rental fees for our ball fields are $30 for two hours per field for nonresidents, $20 for residents," said Kim Conrad, parks and recreation director. "In Eric's (Eric Saxton) case, he's a resident and we offer the alumni tournament a 50 percent discount, so they are paying $10 each for every two hours on the eight fields at Fryer Park."

Games typically start at 8 a.m. and last until about 7 p.m., Conrad said.

In 2017, the softball tournament paid the city $960 in fees for two days of games played at Fryer Park, she said.

Saxton declined to disclose what the tournament pays for the various services and supplies it receives "as it's not fair to all vendors I use to print the prices they charge us."

Most of the money from entry fees, set at $325 per team, goes to pay the various expenses for the tournament, he said.

While the softball tournament donated about $4,000 to the Grove City High School Athletic Boosters last year, the event is mainly designed as a community gathering and a chance for Grove City alumni to reconnect and celebrate their school, Saxton said.

"The event is not targeted to fundraise in any way and that is not the mission of the tournament," he said. "However, some of the school's athletic programs have assisted in the labor of running the tournament and we were able to donate money back to those sports through the athletic boosters."

The donation was made as a way to give back to the community and the school, Saxton said.

"Our thought was since we're celebrating the school and reuniting former students, let's see if we can also do something to benefit current and future students," he said. "We hope to be able to continue this, but it will be a year-by-year thing."

Other considerations

To plan for the Homecoming Celebration, representatives from various city departments including police and fire meet regularly and coordinate efforts with tournament organizers, Conrad said.

"There are a lot of logistics that go into planning for the Homecoming Celebration," she said. "The main thing we're concerned about is making sure we're prepared for handling anything that might go wrong or is unexpected."

That includes both minor details and more serious possibilities, Conrad said.

"We have to think about the unthinkable -- what happens if someone sets off a bomb, for example," she said. "We want to make sure we have a plan in place to limit the harm that will come to our residents and get them evacuated as safely as possible."

The city is partnering with the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency to offer a text-alert program visitors can use for this year's celebration, Conrad said.

Visitors can enroll in the alert system by texting GCHOME2018 to 8887777 and receive messages regarding any emergency situation or weather issue, she said.

"It's a new program that was just started and was in effect for Columbus Pride and Red White & Boom," Conrad said. "Going forward, we plan to have the alert system in place for all our major city events. We'll have a different text message to send for each event."

Eight years ago, an on-field brawl marred the tournament, but that isolated event has not changed the overall positive nature of the gathering, she said.

"It's the only time in the 30-plus-year history of this event that there's been a problem like that," Conrad said. "You might have a few people do a little trash talking, but that's all."

At Fryer Park, alcohol can be consumed at the field but not in other parts of the park, she said.

"You can't drink alcohol in the parking lot or other areas in the park," Conrad said. "If a police officer catches you, they will likely just make you pour it out on the first offense. After that, you're subject to getting charged."

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