LUMBERTON — The Dixie Youth World Series that begins on Friday at the Dr. Raymond B. Pennington Athletic Complex will generate an economic boost of as much as $3 million for Robeson County, according to an economist at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Barry O’Brien, a UNCP alumnus and dean of the university’s School of Business, said a study of potential direct, indirect and induced spending that could take place at the two-week event led him to conclude that the total benefit will be between $2.5 million and $3 million.
“Any of the spending that occurs will have multiple effects on Lumberton and the surrounding region,” O’Brien said.
The Dixie Youth World Series is projected to bring about 1,500 people from 11 states to Lumberton from Friday to Aug. 9, according to the Lumberton Visitors Bureau.
Angela Sumner, Visitors Bureau executive director, said out-of-state families will spend an estimated $900 if they stay in the region for five days during the World Series. For families staying three days, the shortest amount of time a team will be able to stay before elimination, the estimated expenditures are $540.
Those numbers are partially what O’Brien used in calculating the economic investment. He also focused specifically on induced spending, which is spending that results from an increase in income.
“For example, if wages go up because of the spending, the money gets respent a number of times,” O’Brien said.
Local businesses, such as restaurants, retail chains and hotels, will benefit from the spending.
Sumner said the bureau has been in contact with those businesses and with city officials to make sure they are prepared for the influx of visitors. Bureau staff also have been answering questions from out-of-state families about the city.
“In the last few weeks we’ve been fielding lots of calls about Lumberton,” Sumner said. “Where to stay, where to eat, what to do. We’ve pushed out details to all 80 restaurants in Lumberton, and we’ve gotten calls back from restaurants who realize they need to increase their staffing.”
Arnold West, chairman of the Lumberton Tourism Development Authority, owns two restaurants — Arnold’s and Village Station — and both have been making adjustments to handle the increase in visitors.
“We’re prepared for a 35 percent increase in sales,” West said.
Many patrons typically use this time of year to go on vacation, and business slows down as a result, he said.
“Any time you can bring outside dollars and place it in our economy, that’s definitely a plus,” West said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for Lumberton to show off our community to the world.”
Lumberton’s 22 hotels also have seen an increase in demand leading up to the World Series, although plenty of rooms are still available.
“We have polled our hotels this week and last week,” Sumner said. “There are probably about six of the 22 that are fully booked and eight to 10 that are partially booked.”
O’Brien said the long-term economic benefits Robeson County will reap from the Dixie Youth World Series are based on the fact that the event “casts the city in a positive light,” a sentiment echoed by Lumberton Youth Baseball Association Treasurer Bruce Mullis and President Tim Locklear.
The LYBA is playing host of the World Series, along with the city of Lumberton.
“The biggest winner beside our kids who are getting the experience of playing in a world series is going to be the community,” Mullis said. “The hotel rooms, the restaurants, the convenience stores, sporting goods stores, movie theaters, skating rinks. These guys have to do something on their downtime. There will be opportunities for them to shop or do other things in the community.”
Daily passes for the event will be sold for $10, and World Series passes will cost $25. That cost will be used to offset operating costs incurred by LYBA, which is a nonprofit.
“As an organization, we won’t necessarily benefit financially from this,” Locklear said. “It will help, and that’s what we’re about.”
The LYBA was founded in 1995 as a result of discontentment with the competitiveness of the city’s recreational baseball leagues. The LYBA and the city have since formed a strong bond that is evident in the setup of the Dixie Youth World Series.
“We have a great relationship with the city,” Locklear said. “Without that relationship we probably couldn’t make this happen.”
The city has helped LYBA by investing roughly $1 million to cover several projects leading up to the Dixie Youth World Series, such as the construction of a sixth baseball field at the athletic complex and the paving of the parking lot at Lumberton High School’s football field, which will host two opening ceremonies as part of the event.
“I could not ask for a more hardworking group than LYBA,” Mayor Bruce Davis said while crediting West and the Visitors Bureau for their work in preparing for the World Series.
Davis said the two-week World Series will be an opportunity for Lumberton to showcase itself.
“That’s what towns our size strive for,” Davis said.