Thousands of fans filled Melching Field to witness the Stetson Hatters’ weekend of winning June 1-3, as the team bested three others to dominate the DeLand Regional tournament of this year’s NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.
The weekend also proved to be a boon for local businesses, as roaring fans from DeLand and out of town sought places to dine, drink, shop and rest between the seven matches held here, three of which featured lopsided Hatters wins.
Two out of the three visiting teams stayed at West Volusia hotels, as did a group of NCAA officials. Pete Arney, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Orange City, hosted the Hartford Hawks.
“We saw 86 room-nights from the Hartford Hawks baseball team, and another 24 room-nights from a block we established for friends and family members,” he said. “Not to mention that, every day, the coaches and families were asking for suggestions on restaurants for lunch and dinner.”
The NCAA officials stayed at the Artisan Inn in Downtown DeLand, while the South Florida team stayed at DeLand’s Hampton Inn. The Oklahoma State team stayed in Lake Mary.
Arney, who is a member of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority board, said revenue from the event certainly helps local hoteliers and other businesses during the traditionally slow post-Memorial Day period.
The event also helped focus publicity on West Volusia, he added — a point DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar concurred with. The city got a free mention every time a station like ESPN went over the sports scores, the mayor noted.
“If you think about it, every time you had a college baseball score, they’d say, ‘In the DeLand regional, so and so beat so and so,’” Apgar said. “You can’t buy that kind of free publicity, so to speak.”
During the weekend’s games, Apgar said, he spoke with fans visiting from out of town, along with several representatives from the NCAA and broadcasters from ESPN, which covered the games on its ESPN3 streaming network.
“Everybody I talked to was very complimentary of our facilities,” he said. “They were very complimentary about the places that they were staying.”
Georgia Turner, executive director of the Tourism Authority, said the tournament was “a nice boost for everybody.”
“It brought in people who may not have been here in the past and showed them what we have to offer,” she said. “You can’t beat the publicity we got by being on national television.”
Turner said she’ll know better what the economic impact was when the authority gets its bed-tax numbers in a couple of months.
Wayne Carter, executive director of the MainStreet DeLand Association, said Downtown DeLand merchants didn’t get much extra business, although there were some extra visitors. And, he echoed Apgar and Turner in saying the tournament gave DeLand some good publicity, which could pay off in the future.
For the Stetson team, the weekend was a massive success by any measure.
The Hatters capped a win-filled weekend with an 11-1 win — with 10 of those runs scored in a single inning — Sunday evening over Oklahoma State during the final game of the DeLand Regional Tournament.
The Hatters now head to the first Super Regional tournament in the school’s history, bringing them one step closer to the College World Series in Omaha.
Super Regional play kicks off Friday, June 8, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels won the Chapel Hill Regional that was paired with DeLand’s tournament for determining where the next round will be played.
Had any team other than UNC won that regional, DeLand would have hosted the Super Regional.