Young soccer players, their families, referees and spectators will gather at three area parks this weekend for the 10th annual Haunted Classic tournament organized by the Beavercreek Soccer Association.
Nearly 600 teams from Ohio and neighboring states are participating in this year’s youth tournament, which kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday. Games will be played on 70 fields — at Sackett-Wright Park in Bellbrook for the first time this year, as well as at Hobson Freedom Park and BSA’s home-turf Ankeney Fields.
This weekend’s event is expected to bring in $5.2 million for the local economy, according to the Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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More than 2,000 rooms are booked at local hotels and local restaurants say this is one of their “highest-selling weekends of the year,” said visitor’s bureau Director Kathleen Wright.
“Sports tournaments are highly sought after in the tourism world because they are so family-friendly and create such a positive economic impact,” Wright said.
The event, which started in 2009 with just more than 200 teams, brings in up to 25,000 visitors and is now considered the “largest two-day soccer tournament in the U.S,” according to Tournament Co-Director Tim Grinstead.
The Beavercreek Soccer Association is a nonprofit organization with an annual operating budget of more than $400,000, which pays for operating Ankeney Fields through the year, Grinstead said.
“We started small. We were hoping for 150 teams back in 2009,” Grinstead said. “We had to raise our sites for the next year.”
Hundreds of volunteers pitch in at the Haunted Classic and BSA’s spring event, Creek Classic, which are the organization’s primary sources of revenue.
Grinstead said one of the biggest challenges every year is bringing in 300-plus referees to call about 1,000 games. The local pool of referees has diminished, he said, and BSA is paying for lodging and food for hundreds that are coming in from out of state.
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“Fortunately for us, our soccer refs love the hospitality they experience here just as much as the soccer families,” he said.
BSA also covers the costs for Greene County sheriff’s deputies to work extra duty through the weekend for traffic control and event security at Ankeney Fields, according to Capt. Shawn Prall. Greene County park rangers will be doing the same at Hobson Park and Bellbrook police will be present at Sackett-Wright Park.
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Prall said throughout the weekend the public should expect traffic congestion along U.S. 35 between Factory and Orchard roads as well as potential traffic back-ups around the other parks.
For more information, visit the event website at www.hauntedclassic.com.
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