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Editorial - Soccer and development

June 16, 1997

This past weekend's seventh annual Mason-Dixon Cup Soccer Tournament drew 1,600 players from at least five states to Hagerstown and has grown from an initial field of 70 teams to about 100 in 1997.

But while participation in the tournament itself has grown, there hasn't been any growth in the sort of tourism promotion that would turn this event into a full-fledged tourist event like the Crestar Tournament in Roanoke, Va.

Officials there, knowing that thousands of players (and thousands of players' family members) will be in town for the event, have set up several days' worth of activities that serve two purposes. The events provide something for team members and their families to do between games, but they also create an impression of Roanoke as a visitor-friendly community.

Such an impression is the first step toward getting people to spend their dollars and to tell other people about their pleasant experiences there. Hagerstown and Washington County ought to hitch their wagons to this star by promoting and developing activities to capitalize on the captive audience that's here during the tournament weekend.

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At a minimum, every tournament-goer should receive a letter from the local governments, welcoming them here with a package that would include some discount coupons for local restaurants, a list of local attractions, historic and otherwise, and a ticket to a special event at the Maryland Theatre.

That event could be a family movie, a musical performance or a play, but it ought to be co-sponsored by local businesses and begin with a welcome to all out-of-town visitors.

Would it be a lot of trouble? Yes, but Washington County has a quality of life that isn't always reflected in the statistics that prospective industries look at. This is an opportunity to reach out to those businesspeople  whose children are playing in the tournament and get them to look at this area from a different perspective. As long as they're going to be here anyway, someone ought to tell visitors why they should come back again and maybe, just maybe, bring their businesses with them.

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