Tourney director offers take on bungled Southland Classic
Tourney director offers take on bungled Southland Classic
º Shift to Marion leaves West Memphis officials miffed
Southland Classic Softball Tournament organizer Clint Albright reacted to the continued fall out with miffed West Memphis officials.
The West Memphis Advertising and Promotions Commission promised reimbursements to Albright Ideas to attract a tournament field only to have most of the games played in Marion.
City leaders labeled the event a fiasco. Both Mayor Bill Johnson and Tourism Director Jim Jackson used the same phrase to describe Albright’s unilateral and unannounced decision to shift the championship rounds to Marion.
“It gave our city an undeserved black eye,” they said.
Albright had pitched the West Memphis Advertising and Promotion committee for the fourth annual outing last October and an expanded tournament, growing from 40 to 60 teams, was planned. With more divisions and teams expected the A& P understood that some games in the preliminary rounds had to play at Marion. The number of divisions did increase, requiring more fields. But just 41 teams showed up for play.
Rainy tournament weather experienced by teams in pervious years here coupled with wet forecasts diminished late interest in the tournament this year according to the promoter.
Also a new tournament popped up competing for regional teams. Despite the extra incentive for winners to play a select Wounded Warriors team, the brackets did not fill up for the tournament.
“You can promote all day long but certain factors work against you,” said Albright. “There was another tournament by another organization scheduled on the same weekend. In order to play in their state tournament teams had to play in the other tournament and that cost us some teams.
We had teams — well into the 50s — committed, but because of the weather, they dropped out. They (forecasters) said 80 to 90 percent rain.”
The weather actually turned out to be the fairest in the four-year run of the tournament.
Mayor Johnson talked about it all briefly before the start of the City Council Meeting on June 23. The mayor said he wasn’t the only one surprised with Sunday’s championship play in Marion.
“Their park superintendent, Andy Rawls, called me and said it was a complete surprise to him too — finding teams playing there on Sunday,” said Johnson.
Earlier in the day, Albright responded to the initial reports of the West Memphis A& P reaction by phoning Tourism Director Jim Jackson. In a separate interview on the same day Albright pointed to his credentials and track record of putting on tournaments. He said he operated above board and with integrity doing what he had promised to promote lodging, and dining in the Wonder City. The organizer noted the fields in West Memphis had not been improved as promised, that the city had not produced a contract for the tournament as it had in previous years, and his best efforts to call and communicate were ignored. The voice mail doesn’t work in the building where the Parks Department offices. Albright said he logged messages with the secretary and called the director’s cell phone, too.
“I left five messages at Parks and Recreation through the course of the week trying to get hold of somebody,” said Albright.
“I have never been sent a contract. In fact I wanted it all spelled out in a contract. This is the first tournament I’ve ever done where I did not have a contract to spell out the days, dates, hours and the fees but I did not get one in 2016.”
The grounds keeping crew stood by on Sunday and no one showed up to play in West Memphis. Albright said the city missed the communication but not the cash for renting the fields.
“Last year, we paid $800 to rent the complex for Saturday and Sunday and use five fields,” said Albright.
“This year the bill is $750 for three fields and one day. Financially, they’ll get the about same amount of money they got last year to cover the expenses of field crews being on hand.”
Bottom line according to Albright is integrity. He got on the July agenda to face the A& P about the tournament.
He values his reputation
as a softball hall-offamer and a promoter. In organizing the event Albright felt that he had done what he was supposed to do to promote the city ahead of the tournament and knows of one local motel that hosted five teams.
“If the check from West Memphis comes, I will hold that check and not cash the check until I go to that meeting and go over all of this information with that commission,” said Albright. “I want everyone in that town from the mayor on down to be comfortable with all this stuff. If anyone thinks any of this was misrepresented, I will give that check back to the commission.”
So how did the championship get played in Marion? Albright cited the business maxim the customer is always right. He said his teams wanted to finish in Marion.
“Based on feedback we got from teams, they preferred to play on the Marion fields,” said Albright.
“Those fields have impeccable landscaping, are perfectly level, drain well, have beautiful shade structures in dugouts and for the fans. They have a very nice complex there. They are better equipped to handle championship play in my opinion and players want to play on the best fields. I am trying to give them the best experience possible.”
“You do have award ceremonies,” continued Albright. “You want to do them all on one complex.”
Albright emphasized that he prizes the relationships that have developed between his company, Southland and West Memphis.
He held one key regret over the 2016 outing and took responsibility.
“I wish I had made one more phone call, had one more phone number to try and call,” said Albright.
By John Rech