Fruit of the games

As softball players and fans flood into Fort Dodge, it’s not simply the Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex benefiting from the extra people in town.

Restaurants, hotels, retail shops, and even the local pool, see an increase in profit during the week of the Iowa Girls High School State Softball Tournament, and that boosts the local economy.

“State softball is easily a $1million week in Fort Dodge,” said Dan Payne, executive director of the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a huge week for Fort Dodge, easily the biggest event we host all year.”

Susan Winter, cashier supervisor at Rogers Park, said far more than 4,000 fans and players passed through the gates of the park Monday.

“We are expecting a good week,” said Winter.

Donna and Jackie Simoens were among those spending some free time before their teams’ games by shopping at the Crossroads Mall Tuesday afternoon. The Simoens, of Cedar Rapids, sported T-shirts of rival schools – Donna Simoens, a Prairie Hawks shirt, and Jackie Simoens, a Jefferson J-Hawks shirt. Donna Simoens’ granddaughter plays for Cedar Rapids Prairie. Jackie Simoens works at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Both were attending the state softball tournament for the first time.

“This is Prairie’s first time at state in school history,” said Donna Simoens. “We’re excited to come check everything out.”

The Simoens were hoping to make a return trip to Fort Dodge later in the week.

“If they both win tonight, there is a chance our teams could play each other,” said Jackie Simoens.

Decker Sports was a popular shopping spot among players and fans Tuesday.

“We’re expecting a big week,” said Jacob Baardson, assistant manager. “We’ve had around six teams stop in and a ton of parents and fans in their team’s shirts.”

A large tent sale and state softball T-shirts also drew players to Decker’s.

“They’ve been buying a lot of state shirts, and back-to-school clothes. That’s coming right around the corner,” said Baardson. “It’s good for business.”

The Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center was also gearing up for a boost in attendance.

“We’re prepared for a big crowd of teams on Wednesday,”said Jerry Ellendson, pool manager, on Tuesday. “We’ll see a lot of teams and families. That makes it interesting for us, but we definitely welcome teams. We love state softball. It’s a fun week.”

At the state tournament, the Denison Schleswig Monarchs were preparing to make their first-ever appearance. The team has been staying in the dorns at Iowa Central Community College and will be in town for the week.

“We’ll probably hang out with other teams in the dorms tonight, watch a few tournament games, and maybe go shopping,” said Chelsey Green, a Denison Schleswig senior.

Green said the team is just happy to have qualified for state.

“We’ve never been here for state before, but we are having a great time,” she said. “Just the fact that we get to be here is really cool. We played our state qualifying game in this park. We know we are the underdogs, but that means we are coming into this with nothing to lose.”

Monarch fan Troy Ross kept busy prior to the team’s game against Dallas Center-Grimes painting names and jersey numbers on the backs of fellow fans.

“Its our first time ever coming here,” said Ross, “so everyone is excited. We are all just glad to be here.”

For Clarke Indians fan Lindsey Redman, of Osceola, a trip to the state softball tournament to watch the team her husband’s cousin coaches also means a trip home. Redman found a shady spot to sit with her sons, Nolan, 2, and Masan, 4, under an umbrella.

“I’m from Fort Dodge,” she said. “We’re staying with family for the week. It’s nice to get back. The atmosphere out here is great.”