ST. GEORGE — The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association’s World Tournament will be returning to St. George in July 2017 thanks to a successful bid by the St. George Tourism Office.
“It really says something extraordinary about St. George that we are hosting the horseshoe championships for a second time,” said Roxie Sherwin, director of the St. George Tourism Office. “We enjoyed having the pitchers and their families here in 2013 and are thrilled that they are already coming back.”
St. George first hosted the two-week tournament in 2013. Afterward, participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback — something that influenced the selection committee when choosing St. George over Monroe, Louisiana, as the host city for 2017.
“We have to hand it to our residents for welcoming visitors with such friendliness and enthusiasm,” Sherwin said. “Our unique community seals the deal when we bid for these large-scale sporting events.”
The 2017 World Horseshoe Tournament will take place July 17-30 at the Dixie Convention Center. Based on the number of family and friends who typically accompany the nearly 1,200 pitchers, the total visitor count for the event should approach 4,000 people.
“From a tourism industry perspective, the horseshoe tournament is exactly the type of event we want to attract to St. George,” said Kevin Lewis, director of sports marketing for the St. George Tourism Office. “Not only does it introduce thousands of new visitors to our acclaimed landscape and recreation opportunities, but it also helps fill in the gap between our traditionally busy periods in the spring and fall.”
It’s anticipated that the tournament will infuse $3.5 million into the local economy from visitor spending at hotels, restaurants and retail shops. The economic benefit is much greater than the typical sporting event, Lewis explained, because the competitors and their travel companions will stay in the area for an average of seven days.
Other factors that helped St. George secure the hosting bid include the area’s unparalleled access to numerous state and national parks, golf courses and walking trails. The city’s regional airport with service from Delta and United, prime location on Interstate 15 and close proximity to Las Vegas and its large international airport were also attractive selling points.
During the competition, the Dixie Center will be transformed into a 48,000 square-foot, air-conditioned pitching arena with 50 horseshoe courts. Each court will be filled with blue clay, which requires precision throwing since it doesn’t allow the horseshoes to slide once they land.
“We’ve spent a lot of time researching the best clay to use in our arid environment, and we plan to ship the best blue clay here to provide perfect playing conditions,” Lewis said, adding that it’s remarkable to see what pitchers at this level can do. “At the 2013 championship in St. George, three competitors pitched perfect games and the men’s champion set the world record for the highest ringer percentage at a world tournament.”
The 2013 tournament in St. George marked the end of a nearly 50-year hiatus in the World Horseshoe Tournament’s presence in Utah. Mid-century, Northern Utah’s Murray City hosted the tournament 13 times: first in 1947 and then for 11 consecutive years from 1949 to 1959 and once more in 1966.
“If you can throw, you can pitch!” Lewis said. “This is a timeless game that is accessible to people of all ages and athletic abilities, and we hope local residents will take advantage of the tournament’s return to Utah by joining in the fun and maybe even learning a new pastime.”
Admission to the tournament is free, and the public is welcome and encouraged to watch and cheer on the pitchers. More information can be found on the World Horseshoe Tournament website.
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