By David F. Rooney
The annual Glacier Challenge Softball Tournament — one of our longest-lasting celebrations — teeters on the brink of extinction and organizer Alan Chell is seeking ideas on ways to reinvigorate it.
He and the rest of the tournament organizing committee are holding a public meeting at the Community Centre on November 30 at 7 pm to discuss new directions for the event.
“What we’re hoping to do is just find out how to go forward,” he said in an interview. “I think in my mind it’s a very important community event.”
For 28 years the tournament has attracted scores of teams from across BC and Alberta. At its height it brought more than 120 teams to town, many of them accompanied by families and friends. In all, well over a thousand people would descend on Revelstoke over the course of the August long weekend. Their influx coincided with many local residents’ summer vacations and provided a welcome financial shot in the arm for liquor stores, restaurants, farmer’s market vendors, the supermarkets and other local businesses.
But attendance dropped off drastically in the last number of years. This year saw 63 teams come to town from across BC and Alberta. That’s not a good sign. Last year, 2014, there were 80 teams; in 2013 there were 87; in 2012 there were 93; 2011, 112 teams; in 2010, 126; and in 2009 there were 140. (Please click here to read an earlier story about the this issue.)
Some of that may be due to the Great Recession of 2008 and Chell said demographic changes may also have been responsible, too. The original players aged, had families, slowed down and got out of shape as they became grandparents. Then, too, there were changes in the younger generation’s taste in sports.
“A lot of younger people are doing individual sports and aren’t playing softball anymore,” he said. “And over the last few years there has been a bit of complacency set in (among local organizers).”
Chell, who has been involved with the Glacier Challenge since its inception, believes the tournament has real value for the community and its economy. He’s right. A successful tourism sector depends on our ability to attract and encourage people to come here and spend money. That means more than dependence on our magnificent landscape. People who come here and really enjoy themselves are likely to come back and/or recommend our part of the world as a place worth visiting.
“We had a lot of good years so now we are asking, ‘What is our niche market?’” Chell said. “Maybe we need to go to being an 80-team tournament. Eighty teams could all be contained down at the ball park without using fields in the Big Eddy or elsewhere.”
The last few years saw some major internal, organizational changes. The tournament was originally organized by volunteers from many different organizations ranging from the City to the Revelstoke Credit Union to the Rotary Club, Team Gloria and other groups. During the last couple of years responsibility for it had devolved onto the shoulders of the Chamber of Commerce. Chell hopes that this meeting will generate not just new ideas about how to renew the tournament.
“Twenty-eight years is a long time for any event to go on successfully,” he said. ‘If somebody came to the City and said ‘I can bring in 1,500 people over four days to the community,’ do you think people would say that’s a good thing? They’d be all over it. Well, we have that already and what we do need is a bit of rejuvenation.”
If you have some ideas about ways to reorganize and renew this event please come to the Community Centre on Monday, November 30, at 7 pm to join the conversation about ways to breathe new life into this Revelstoke tradition.