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Mar 5, 2013 8:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

Tucson Invitational Games a big hit with local businesses

TUCSON- The Gem Show, Tucson Rodeo and Matchplay may be in the books but now another big event is boosting the local economy. More than 100 collegiate baseball and softball teams are taking over Tucson this month for the Tucson Invitational Games. It has been around since 2002 but it's really taken off these past couple of years.

From the fields at Kino Sports Complex to the sun-soaked pool, Tucson is the place to be for players and their families.

"I think this is probably the farthest we've come for an away game," said Jeanne Smith, who traveled to see her son play for Iowa-based Simpson College. She left two days of flurries and nine inches of snow to watch the games, and she is not the only fan loving the fair weather.

"They bring visitors here to Tucson and many of them, they just need to come once and they come back," said Ellen Jimenez, associate director of sales at the Radisson on Speedway.

Those visitors mean big business. This year there are 110 teams, requiring more than 9,000 hotel rooms. Organizers estimate the annual event generates between $8 million and $10 million for the city.

"It's a big deal for Tucson," said Director of Baseball Operations Matt Tiggas.

It is also a way to keep Tucsonans close to home for their spring training fix, and the games are only getting bigger.

"Last year we went from 24 teams to 55 teams in baseball," said Tiggas.

"We may come back without the team next year," said Smith. "Especially if we've got nine inches of snow at home."

The softball action goes through March 17, baseball runs through March 30. Games run all day every day at both Kino and Lincoln Park. Click here for schedules.

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