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‘Very impactful time’: Local businesses prepare for uptick in patrons during World Series

The Australian fans cheer as floats pass during the Little League World Series parade in downtown Williamsport Monday evening. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

The Little League World Series is back into full swing as local businesses prepare for visitors from around the world.

The nationwide event has 20 teams this year, which is more teams than ever before.

For the Genetti Hotel’s general manager Kathy Taylor, the two weeks of Little League is the time to “make hay while the sun is shining to get us to the end of the year.”

“This is our big push for occupancy in our hotel rooms, revenue in our restaurant,” Taylor said. “It’s just a really very impactful time for us.”

Some people have been coming to the hotel during the Series for 25 to 30 years, Taylor noted.

Typically, people — particularly Little League volunteers like the uncles and umpires — reserve their rooms at the hotel a year in advance.

Because of the increase in occupancy, the hotel hires extra staff, which has been challenging this year, Taylor admitted.

“It’s been challenging to do that during regular times, but it’s been significantly challenging especially after the pandemic,” Taylor said, adding that she feels that the hotel is “fully staffed and ready to go.”

“I just think we’re hoping no one gets sick,” she said.

Taylor is confident that the Series, with all its changes this year, will benefit her business.

“It’s the 75th anniversary of Little League. They have added four more teams … so play has been

expanded, which is an opportunity for us to increase some of our revenue as well,” she said.

If there is one thing that is keeping the hotel from being fully occupied, Taylor said, it’s the way the brackets are set up.

“So, we’re not completely full the second week, which has me a little concerned because we would be close to if not full by the second week by now and we’re not. I think that is a result of the way the brackets are with additional play,” she said.

“I feel pretty confident that we will be full but it has me holding my breath kind of a little bit,” she added.

Owners of The Bullfrog Brewery are also preparing to accommodate guests from out of town.

“We’re ready for it. We’ve been through this a lot. We’re having basically our 26th anniversary during this week. We have made our own pins this year, so there’s several different things we’re doing,” said Steve Koch, co-owner of the brewery. “We’ve tried to stay as flexible as we can, because a lot of times teams need accommodation at the last minute.”

West Fourth Street business owners were excited to see the streets filled with people again for the Grand Slam Parade.

“As far as population, it seems pretty full and vibrant, but not quite as dense of crowds as maybe we had drawn in the past,” Koch said. “I like to see people coming in from all over the world. It’s just fun to talk to people — they’re all in a great mood because they’re here and they represent some of the best little baseball players in the world. They’re excited to be here to support them and watch them.”

Otto Bookstore and The Clothier are also frequented businesses amid the Series.

“It’s nice to see all the different people coming in. We usually get a few from Canada that come in, usually a couple from Australia, and then a few from Latin America — it’s just neat seeing people from everywhere in town,” said Andrew Brum, Otto Bookstore manager.

“We do our best to make a warm welcome to the people from all across the country who come in to come and see the sport,” said Francis Ciccarelli, owner of The Clothier.

“As hectic as the week always is, and a lot of long hours, it’s fun as well,” said Koch.

This year is still different than past years for local businesses, as many are struggling with the impacts of COVID and inflation.

“In general, I still think there’s a segment of the population that keeps COVID in the back of your brain and doesn’t really want to be out in crowds. We haven’t seen a complete return on a local level. But overall, I think people are kind of past it, and they’ve been accepting,” said Koch. “Now the uptick in inflation, people are still going out, but maybe not quite as much. So, those are the challenges we’re up against. We will just keep trying to evolve with what’s necessary and change with the times and see what can be done.”

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