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GFI cancelled for 2013, to come back in 2014

Boundary baseball fans will have to wait until 2014 to enjoy another gripping final game at the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament. Organizers have cancelled the 2013 tourney. Photo Erin Perkins.

Retiring long-term volunteers, baseball field upgrades and the withdrawal of two key teams has lead to the cancellation of the 2013 Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament scheduled for the last week in August.

The Grand Forks International Baseball Society Board of Directors made the official announcement today, Friday, March 15.

“We’re (financially) viable and have more money then we ever have,” said Bud Alcock, GFIBS president during a private interview with The Boundary Sentinel. “We have a great passionate board of directors and they are absolutely passionate about having the game in 2014.”

2013 was to be the 33rd year for the tournament, which has more than 350 volunteers, loads of community support and a budget of $180,000. Hundreds of visitors come out to the games and talent scouts have even been known to hold down the bleachers looking for the next great player. Although it has been around for 33 years, this isn’t the first time the end of summer event has taken a hiatus for one or two years only to return with more vigor.

This decision came after several key volunteers, who’d been involved for nearly 30 years, retired, two of the confirmed teams withdrew to attend the Canadian Nationals and finally the rebuilding of the infield at James Donaldson Park by the City of Grand Forks, all equaled the cancellation.

While 2013 is out, 2014 is not.

“With dedication and enthusiasm we are already working on plans for 2014 with the goal of increasing exposure and attendance to make the 2014 GFI the best and most memorable,” the board said collectively in a press release sent out today.

“The board wishes to extend sincere thanks to the dedicated volunteers, sponsors, advertisers, players, fans and to the community at large for their ongoing support and we hope to see you all in 2014.”

GFI a tourist draw

Dawsha Hunt, manager of the Grand Forks Visitor’s Center, said the GFI is a great tourist draw for the area.

“The general feeling I’m seeing is that the one time people drove through Grand Forks, saw the ball tournament and it made them make the decision to stay,” said Hunt. “Now they come back every year because they are (base) ball nuts.”

Hunt takes the reservations of the city-owned campground in City Park. She said she gets a lot of bookings during the week of the tournament and she anticipates there will be some disappointment over the cancellation.

She said tournaments like this one do provide quite a bit of economic stimulation. When the Australian team came to play in 2011, Hunt got a lot of feedback from local businesses about how often they saw the team around town.

“It’s not just for (base) ball nuts,” said Hunt. Anyone whose grown up here often comes back to visit family and take in the game.

“It has a reunion atmosphere.”

Much like the upcoming Peewee Hockey Championship March 17-21, players stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and enjoy the local attractions, she said.

There are seven teams coming out for the Peewee tournament, and some of them are even staying out at Christina Lake. They’ve booked the bowling alley, booked the Station Pub and are looking for more things to do while they’re here, said Hunt.