EXCLUSIVE: Columbus softball fields to undergo multi-million dollar renovation and host 2019 Olympic qualifiers

Updated: Sep. 12, 2018 at 7:02 PM EDT
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(Source: WTVM)
(Source: WTVM)

(WTVM) - Olympic ties are returning to Columbus. This time, in the form of the USA International Softball Cup in 2019.

Columbus hosted the 1996 Olympic Softball games with the South Commons Softball Complex being built for the site of play.

"That's a very big deal," says Holly Browder, director of  Columbus Parks and Recreation.

The complex can be deemed a historical landmark, right here in the Fountain City. The complex also hosts the annual Georgia High School Association State Softball Tournaments, plus a combined over 13,000 players local and nonlocal for this year alone.

2018 economic impact is estimated at roughly $4.8 million for the complex.

"Since 1995 when the complex was originally built, roughly $147 million has been brought to the Columbus community from the events that have been hosted here at South Commons," says Browder.

Come July 2019, it will once again take an international spotlight.

"We were presented the opportunity to host in 2019, what's called the International Cup. It's a precursor event for Olympic Softball teams that will be going to play in Japan in 2020," says Browder.

But, Browder says the complex is in need of $5.8 million worth of renovations due to its age. New paint jobs, field light replacements, press accommodations, plus wifi and technology upgrades are some examples of the expected renovations, to name a few.

"We really want to make sure our facility is on point and on the standard to what we need to present on that level of play," says Browder.

Browder also explains the conditions of the complex itself are well functioning, but as with all structures, as time goes on and advancements emerge, updates and renovations are necessary.

Browder says funding for the renovations will come from Columbus Sports Council acquired donors and city funding. The timeline for physical completion of the project puts renovations taking place during the winter "off months" and completion by July 2019, in time for the games.

Browder says the investment into the complex means even more potential long-term economic return for the city.

"It's a win-win for the community, not just on a local level but on an international level when we host those games."

There is no word yet though on the projected economic impact this International Cup will have on Columbus.

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