ST. GEORGE — The official countdown to the 2017 World Horseshoe Tournament began last week from this year’s tournament in Montgomery, Alabama, where St. George Area Sports Commission Director Kevin Lewis promoted the 2017 tournament’s St. George destination to prospective participants.
Lewis wears two hats in his service to Southern Utah. He is director of the Washington County Office of Sports and Outdoor Recreation, as well as director/CEO of the St. George Area Sports Commission, an advisory board to the county entity whose members are appointed by the Washington County Commissioners.
In addition to this year’s tournament, Lewis also attended the 2015 world tournament in Kansas, where he “pitched” the St. George area’s prevailing bid for host city in 2017.
The tournament will be held at the Dixie Center St. George from July 17-30, 2017 – the same venue in which it was held in 2013.
“The response from pitchers who are here in Montgomery has been phenomenal,” Lewis said from last week’s tournament. “Those who participated in St. George in 2013 say they can’t wait to come back, and many of them are planning extended vacations this time so they can take advantage of all of the great sites and activities in our area.”
The tournament’s return to St. George will mark the 15th time the tournament has been held in Utah. No other state has hosted as often.
“Hosting this prestigious event for the second time in a four-year span shows what a high-quality host St. George has become,” Lewis said, “and carries on the tradition of Utah being a great location for the world championships.
During the 2017 competition, the Dixie Center will become a 48,000-square-foot air-conditioned arena with 50 horseshoe pitching courts.
Each court will be filled with Illinois Blue Clay, Lewis said, a decision which came about as a result of extensive research into the consistency and playability of various clays from across the country.
Utah was the epicenter of the horseshoe pitching world following the end of World War II.
Twelve times in a 13-year stretch – 1947 and 1949-59 – the world championships were conducted in Murray, just south of Salt Lake City. In those competitions a fierce rivalry ensued between Fernando Isais and Ted Allen. The men won a combined 18 world titles in their careers and captured 11 of the 12 championships contested in the Beehive State during that era.
The 2013 tournament in St. George marked a glorious return to the Beehive State after the sport’s 47-year absence. It also heralded the most dominant horseshoe pitcher of all time: 20-time world champion Alan Francis, who set a world record with an overall ringer percentage of 91.23.
Read and see more of the 2013 tournament: World Championships: Horseshoe pitchers descend on Dixie and National horseshoe tourney begins; STGnews VideoCast
The two-week tournament in 2013 attracted approximately 1,100 athletes and 4,000 visitors to the St. George area from all over the world.
Because competitors and their traveling companies stayed in the region for an average of seven days, Lewis said, an estimated $3.5 million was injected into the local economy.
“The feedback we received from visitors was overwhelmingly positive,” Lewis said. “They appreciated how much our citizens rolled out the red carpet for them, and it wasn’t long before the event directors invited us to bid to host the tournament again.”
In recent years, the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association has developed a bidding process to determine future locations. With that, the world tournament began moving to a new location each year, similar to how the Olympics operate.
Two years prior to the proposed event, bid cities attend the world tournament and market their destination to the pitchers, staff and delegates. At the end of the week, delegates from each state and country vote on where the next tournament will be.
“While the St. George area is well known around the country for its outdoors appeal, hosting the World Horseshoe Pitching Championships highlights the diversity of sporting options available in the area,” Lewis said. “This is a spectator-friendly event that utilizes the convention center during our shoulder season and helps to fill hotels, restaurants and other businesses during the height of summer.”
Admission to the tournament is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.
About the Office of Sports and Recreation
The St. George Area Sports Commission was established by the Washington County Commission to help responsibly grow the sports and recreation economy in Washington County through the promotion and development of sports and outdoor recreation.