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Organizers say the second annual international PONY softball tournament held in McAllen solidifies the city’s effort to be a long-term host for the event, a success they say will provide local businesses with an economic boon and boost area athletes.
This year’s tournament, hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, kicked off Wednesday with an opening ceremony at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium where organizers say about 3,500 people attended.
Games ran from early morning till after dark Thursday, Friday and Saturday, often simultaneously on 21 fields across the city. And around 10,000 visitors are expected throughout the tournament weekend.
Puerto Rico and Philippines teams attended this year, along with about 120 other teams, a number Boys & Girls Club CEO Dalinda Alcantar says has gone up by 30 since last year.
Alcantar says the turnout shows McAllen has proved itself as an adequate host for the tournament, and she expects the city to keep hosting it annually.
“I talked to a coach from the DFW area and he said last year they brought one team, because they were kind of unsure about not only the tournament but our region,” she said. “This year they brought all four teams they have in their ace division, and he is super happy — he was excited to come back down.”
According to Alcantar, bringing the tournament to Rio Grande Valley athletes puts them on par with athletes “I was an athlete; gone are the days that we feel like we have to go to San Antonio, we have to go to Austin, DFW, even Corpus, to get really great play,” she said. “That’s over and done with. People are coming to us and we’re able to show our kids, this is their value.”
Bringing thousands of outsiders is also, Alcantar said, of significant economic value to the area.
“I can tell you right now, there is no place to stay in McAllen,” she said. “All hotels are booked for an entire week. I can tell you right now — we went to dinner yesterday — and we had to wait at Palenque, because all the teams had just left the opening ceremony. Small restaurants and businesses are going to feel the impact during an otherwise downtime for the economy in our region.”
A variety of local businesses and entities — including the city, the McAllen chamber and McAllen ISD — partner to support the tournament. Alcantar called those partnerships critical in making the event a success.
“Everyone is in it for our community,” she said.