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Caswell Park has lost the state softball tournament this year due to COVID-19. The economic impact to the region of the tournament last year was estimated to be $1.6 million.

In a normal year, the action at Caswell Park would be just about ready to hit its stride.

High school games would be in full swing, recreation sports would be starting Monday, and the first youth softball tournament would be next weekend at the North Mankato complex.

However, it’s not a normal year, and because of that, the normally buzzing complex sits vacant.

“You go to Caswell Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ... there are a lot of people around (normally),” Caswell Park sports director Phil Tostenson said. “I want to do everything I can to have something.”

While it’s tough on the people who usually participate in activities at Caswell, the economic impact of a vacant sports complex has already been felt, and the losses will grow significantly if the shutdown continues through the summer.

Last week, the Minnesota State High School League canceled spring sports, which officially ended any hopes of Caswell hosting the state softball tournament. A year ago, Tostenson estimates that tournament was worth $1.6 million to the local economy.

The Mankato Peppers are still scheduled to host a pair of massive youth softball tournaments later this summer. The Rising Stars tournament will bring about 60 teams to the Mankato area, while the Peppers Classic will draw around 90 teams, with 20 of them being international, mostly from Canada.

Tostenson said the latter tournament was worth about $1.1 million to the local economy last year.

Overall, the economic impact of tournaments at Caswell last year was estimated at around $8.1 million.

“For hotels and restaurants, not being able to play ball up at Caswell ... that hurts a lot,” Mankato Area Girls Fastpitch Association vice president Matt Mangulis said.

There are currently 80 teams signed up to play rec softball, compared to around 120 last year. There are about 60 teams registered for sand volleyball, which is down from about 90 a year ago.

Tostenson noted that one issue has been corporate sponsorship, as some of the businesses that have sponsored local teams in recent years aren’t doing it this year, or have gone out of business.

Despite that, Tostenson and Mangulis each remain hopeful.

“We have every intention to start the rec sports as soon as we are able to,” Tostenson said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen over the next month, but I think adult recreation would at least like to have something.”

For now, there is no part-time help hired to work at Caswell, but Tostenson and another full-time employee are hard at work keeping the fields groomed and the complex ready to go.

Gov. Tim Walz’ new stay-at-home order is set to last until May 18, so nothing will happen until then. However, if it’s deemed safe, things at Caswell should start back up quickly.

“All of our coaches know their teams, know their kids,” Mangulis said. “They’re ready to play ball as soon as they can.”

Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.

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