Columbus Is ALL IN For The 39th Gay Softball World Series
Picture it…Columbus, Ohio…August 2010.
A first time Gay Softball World Series host city embarked on a memorable week of fun, competition and unforgettable memories. The city treated its patrons to a vibrant nightlife, a clean and safe city, a bevy of dining and entertainment options and the tournament was contested entirely in the United States’ largest softball complex.
For those folks that participated in the 2010 GSWS in Columbus, Ohio we all got the sense that this city was proving itself on an international stage. The host committee and the people involved with the bid took it on as a challenge to make sure that people didn’t just leave Columbus saying “it was a good time”. That 2010 committee did it’s job and then some because just about everywhere you go from tournament to tournament and each World Series in between 2010 and today, the gay softball community has been saying “when are we going back”.
Now, cut to August 2015.
The wait is almost over for NAGAAA players, coaches, fans and supporters. The 2015 GSWS is less than two weeks away and while some of the venues, businesses, faces and organizers are the same…Columbus is eager to show you how it’s stepped up its game. The bar continues to be raised when it comes to the GSWS. Year after year, the event gets larger and with an ever-increasing number of participants, it creates a bigger challenge for host committees. How do organizations like the 2015 GSWS Host Committee continue to answer the bell and provide a spectacular experience for the participants?
For starters we asked 2015 GSWS Executive Director, Dallas Aldridge how a week-long event like this comes together and what this year’s participants can expect in Ohio this August. With Columbus becoming a second time host city and having five of its eight committee members returning from 2010, some people might assume the committee knows what to expect. After talking to the head man in charge of the 2015 GSWS Committee we learned that’s not the case. “Our learning from 2010 was to expect the unexpected! So much so, we made it part of our social media strategy this year! Something is not going to go according to plan and as long as we work together as a team we will get through it, resolve it and sometimes make it better. As long as our team stays focused and execute plan A or plan B, many attendees may not even know of the last-minute changes,” said Aldridge.
While it’s clear that controlling everything in a week-long event with over 180 teams is impossible, one thing that the committee has been able to control is the amount of technology that is being used at this year’s World Series. The use of technology to improve registration, create a better ease of information to participants and to communicate more effectively could end up being the legacy of the 2015 GSWS and the legacy this committee is leaving for subsequent GSWS committees. You must check out the GSWS app which is available for Apple and Android users. Download it today and be amazed at the amount of professional level content that will actually benefit you leading up to Series and while you’re in Columbus. “The APP was a crazy idea from our marketing team who said it was time. We are so grateful to our two developers – Matheda and Sky Iron Studios LLC who donated in excess of $60,000 of development time for both the iOS and Android versions that will allow every attendee to have all the information for the entire GSWS at their fingertips. In our next release due just before the World Series we are adding push notification so in the unlikely event we need to change a game time, a field, or have some unexpected change we need to communicate we can easily contact the masses without having to do the usual hunt for manager’s phone numbers or run around the fields – It’s a big park! And the first time we will be able to easily communicate any last-minute updates – We LOVE the APP – and even better our developers have committed to paying it forward and will be updating the initial screens to Austin 2016 information at the conclusion of GSWS 2015. It’s our way of saying we are all NAGAAA family and sharing the wealth,” added Series Executive Director, Dallas Aldridge.
Continuing with the technology theme, participants can expect electronic registration for the very first time at a World Series. There will still be volunteers helping you get registered, but the committee and NAGAAA has replaced the old paper spreadsheets for tablets/kiosks. “When we looked to improve the overall player experience we thought this was something we could completely overhaul not only to the benefit our volunteers but also our players, and NAGAAA who need to ensure those players on the field are qualified and verified. It helps that we have a tech geek on our team who built the system from scratch to accommodate our needs rather than try to fit our process into a standard tool,” Aldridge stated.
Moving on to off the field fun, the amount of events that participants have the option to attend is staggering. This committee knew it would have its work cut out for them to keep the bar where Dallas Series 2014 left it and an even bigger challenge to improve upon it, but they have met that challenge head on and have a fantastic week plus planned for everyone. “We have worked really hard to program a week of events that has something for everyone, player, official, delegate, supporter, fan or family. While we have some of the most popular elements returning from 2010, this will not be a repeat of that World Series. So, whether this is your first time to Columbus or you were here in 2010 we want you to leave saying the GSWS was amazing and you can’t wait to do it again in Austin 2016. This event is not only about softball, it is about building our community, supporting each other and giving us a safe space to express ourselves regardless of whether we are an athlete, an ally or a supporter. In many ways, the GSWS is like the largest family reunion each year,” added Aldridge.
Volunteers are the life blood of running a smooth event and this year’s World Series is no different. The 2015 GSWS has an online volunteer portal where you can sign up for volunteer shifts and see which events need your help the most. “Within the first 10 days we have over 135 volunteers already registered for a shift, and in some cases we have volunteers signing up for multiple shifts. We have a need for over 500 volunteers during the GSWS. If anyone is interested, they can find additional information and sign up for a shift or two at http://www.gaysoftballworldseries.com. We cannot do this event without our volunteers so even if it is just one shift, it counts,” Aldridge stated.
Aside from all of the excitement surrounding going back to Columbus, playing all of the tournament games at one complex and the technological additions, there is a lot of buzz about this being the biggest Gay Softball World Series in history and the tournament host committee members are thrilled to see this playing out in their home city. We asked Dallas Aldridge, 2015 GSWS Executive Director what he was most excited about. “If we are able to hit near 200 teams it will be a significant milestone for NAGAAA and the Gay Softball World Series. It shows that interest in softball and this organization is continuing to grow because of the efforts of our member cities and the local leagues across North America. “Also, I am excited to show off our city. If someone was here in 2010 and hasn’t been here since, they will notice the changes to the city in only five years. The Opening Ceremonies is at the top of my list of things not to miss. I feel we are really going to book end the GSWS with a fantastic Opening Ceremonies and a Closing Party that will be very memorable. We have been using the tag line “expect the unexpected”, we are trying to add things to events that will leave a lasting impression for those attending and create memories we will all be talking about for years to come,” said Aldridge.
Regardless of any trip ups or minor issues that arise throughout the week this group in Columbus has raised the bar once again and the event hasn’t even officially started yet. Participants of this year’s GSWS should be prepared for a great week full of fun, softball and lifelong memories. The City of Columbus and its citizens should be extremely proud of what this committee and its partnerships have achieved already.
Look for special features on the Diamond Dish about the tournament in the week leading up to Series including a closer look at events, sponsors and about the competition culminating in our coverage of the NAGAAA Summer Meetings and World Series predictions.
*A special thank you to Dallas Aldridge, GSWS 2015 Executive Director for his time and help with this GSWS Tournament Spotlight article.*